In his discourse on integrity, Colonel Eric Kail of West Point Academy said that there are two critical parts which are vital to integrity, aside from doing the right thing when no one is looking. First, a leader must understand the rule of law on a fundamental philosophical basis; simple compliance is not enough, there must be an ethical acknowledgment as to why it exists. Second, is the realization that everyone makes mistakes; no one is infallible, and faults are part of human nature. However, the character of a true leader assimilates the lessons learned and continues to improve.
Lack of integrity and ethical lapses by leaders have sunk many a company. USA Today listed eight founders who ruined their respective organizations, including the founders of Dell, American Apparel or Blackberry. Lack of integrity led to the companies dealing with issues ranging from fraud, sexual misconduct scandals, and an inability to see changing market trends. So where does leadership training begin? Within a corporate structure, traits such as integrity are not an essential criterion for success by middle managers. Middle management best benefits from social intelligence, the understanding of people and the situations around them, whereas integrity is essential at the top-level.
Aye, but as Hamlet would say “there’s the rub,” for job performance used to gauge and promote middle management to the top of organizations might also be responsible for the ethical failures experienced at the highest echelons. The irony is that corporations promote middle-level management to the top levels with little regard to their integrity, so when they get there, they may neither have, nor have developed the integrity which is so crucial at the top levels. Moreover, the Globe and Mail report that senior-level executives, tend to rate their integrity more highly than their followers do, which creates a false positive in their performance rating.
Integrity is shaped by valuable life lessons which affect an individual on a deep moral level. It requires honest introspection of honesty and virtue. It also calls into question the real motive of one’s intentions and whether they have ever attempted to deceive deliberately. What does a leader do to lead with integrity and empower those around them? Menlo Coaching suggests integrity is about being frank and realistic, and this stems from things such as not being afraid to tell clients the truth even though it might be bad news. A leader must also be unafraid to point out faults, and not let standards slide.
The importance of integrity is an essential topic at about at all management levels. When leadership is candid about it, they will act with integrity.