Integrity is the Path to Success
Barbara J. Chance,
Ph.D. is President and CEO (ret.), CHANCE Management Advisors, Inc.
The supreme quality for leadership is unquestionably integrity. Without it, no real success is possible, no matter whether it is on a section gang, a football field, in an army, or in an office. ~ Dwight Eisenhower
Being a Kansan, I have always admired Dwight Eisenhower. For those of you who don’t read history, or maybe have forgotten it, he was the Supreme Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Force in Europe and was responsible for the invasion of Normandy (D-Day) that was the beginning of the end of World War II in Europe.
He knew a great deal about leadership in difficult and uncertain circumstances, including how to cope with comrades with unlimited egos, inadequate resources, subordinates he did not choose, competitors who felt he was “in over his head,” incomplete information, and a huge amount of responsibility for operations that could be immensely successful or profoundly disastrous.
Some of these circumstances may seem familiar to you if you are leading an organization, or a part of one, in these days. It is not an easy time to be a leader, and it is difficult to find good ones for the positions where they are needed.
I believe Eisenhower was correct in his belief that the quality most important for a leader is INTEGRITY. But what are the features of integrity, and how can you tell if someone has it – or if you have it? And why does it matter to those around you?
The development of integrity is personal. No one “gives” it to you – you have to do the work yourself. Leaders without integrity are rampant, and most people know them when they see or hear them. Here are some of the important actions that can help a person develop integrity and become a good leader.
• Make it clear what you stand for, what is important to you, and what your values and principles are. Then ensure that your actions are in line with these ideas.
• Be authentic. Be yourself. Don’t try to pretend you are something else other than what you are, realizing that all of us can work on personal improvements.
• Do the right things for the right reasons. Many years ago, I heard someone near and dear to me giving advice to a manager in his company. It was “Usually when you decide an issue is more complicated than right and wrong, you’re wrong.” Words to live by.
• Give credit to others, and do it publicly if you can. Be compassionate and kind when working closely with people.
• Take responsibility for things that go wrong, even if it seems the fault lies elsewhere. Many times, purpose and directions are not clear or adequate, and that is the responsibility of the leader.
• Cultivate a sense of irony and humor, including self-effacing humor. It will serve you well in the times you and your associates need to keep sanity when all around you are losing theirs.
• Realize that leadership can be found in many places. People at all levels in an organization can be leaders in what they do, and they can dramatically increase the effectiveness of an organization and staff. Look for and reward leaders for efforts wherever they are located.
• Be consistent. All leaders have a certain style that develops over the years based on their life circumstances and experiences. Whatever your approach to leadership, be consistent and generally predictable.
• Be honest. This can sometimes be difficult, and sometimes the bare truth must be tempered a bit. But find a way and a time to put the truth forward. Remember the wheel turns, and opportunities often come round again.
Employees may complain about personnel issues, relative pay, issues with managers, performance assessment, and a host of other issues. Colleagues may be frustrated with relationships, assignments of responsibilities, and work levels. But a leader with integrity, who follows an internal set of beliefs and values, can weather these issues and move an organization forward successfully.
And if you have integrity, Shakespeare described your path many years ago:
This above all: to thine
own self be true,
And it must follow, as the
night the day,
Thou canst not then
be false to any man.//
Barbara J. Chance, Ph.D. is President and CEO (ret.), CHANCE Management Advisors, Inc.