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Integrity always

As a reminder, integrity can be defined as ‘the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles’, join this course for further learning.
Compass with arrow pointing at Integrity

As a reminder, integrity can be defined as ‘the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles’, and it comes from the more physical definition of ‘the state of being whole and undivided’ (both from Oxford online).

SIGMA Assessment Systems says the following specifically about integrity in leadership: “Integrity in leaders refers to being honest, trustworthy, and reliable. Leaders with integrity act in accordance with their words (i.e. they practice what they preach) and own up to their mistakes, as opposed to hiding them, blaming their team, or making excuses.” The latter part of this definition is by way of example, and the italicised part is the real definition, I would say. And without the introductory words which emphasise honesty, simply someone acting in accordance with their words would not be sufficient. There has to be some sense of a high moral code here, as just doing what you say you will do, or believe in, is not integrity. Think about someone carrying out a violent act, for instance, because they believe in and ‘preach’ that. This is not integrity.

As a leader there is, in some senses, a moral duty to demonstrate integrity. You need to set an example, and show what is expected of others in society and more specifically your area of responsibility. Integrity is very closely linked to trust: if a leader does not have integrity, i.e. they are not honest and true to themselves and others in a moral sense, then it will be difficult for others to trust them. And without trust: you don’t have followership.

How can we ensure we maintain our integrity? In particular, how can we do this in a crisis or when under great stress, as that is often when we are at our most vulnerable, and therefore liable to ‘slip’? There is no easy formula, but here are some fundamentals we need to consider:

1) have we been maintaining our resilience, according to the ‘resilience blockers’ we talked about again in summary at Step 3.16?

2) are we using The Zone model to identify when/if we are in Impossibility or Survival, and then able to shift ourselves into a better, more productive motivational state?

3) are we self-aware enough to identify whether we are in the right frame of mind to make an important decision, and in so doing act with integrity? Can we get into the habit of ‘checking’ ourselves at such crucial times? (By this I mean both in the sense of checking against our moral standards, as well as ‘pausing’ to reflect.)

Integrity of course ties in to our values very much, and our values form a basis of who we are and who we need to be true to. However, integrity is more than being in tune with our own values, in the sense that we tend to share similar moral principles across our societies. Any definition of ‘moral’ or ‘moral compass’ references right and wrong, and the ability to distinguish between them.

If we consider different periods of history, we can say that people’s morals have changed, and also if we look at different geographies we could say they vary in terms of what they consider to be right and wrong. Capital punishment is one example, as are other matters as varied as abortion, fox hunting and euthanasia. Different societies, or groups within societies, have different stances on each of these. However if we are looking at most matters, and certainly focusing on the business world, it is fairly clear what is right and wrong in our own environment. We might find challenges, for example when a global company is working in a country where you have to pay a ‘tip’ in order to process your tax return. Some organisations therefore have policies that make exceptions for what might be deemed bribes in their own country, if the standard way of conducting business elsewhere necessitates such payments. A fine line needs to be trod, but such situations are generally not an issue for most businesses, and integrity is very clear in its meaning for the leader.

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