Every person I meet, and myself included, struggles to keep their word from time to time or struggles to live up to what they say they will do. Maybe the only person you break your word with is yourself or the only person you’re letting down or failing to live up to commitments to is yourself. You could be doing a great job with everyone else, but almost everyone struggles to keep the commitments they make to themselves…and that’s an integrity issue.
Integrity is not a requirement for leadership.
There are plenty of examples throughout history of powerful, influential leaders that had massive impact on the world, their countries, businesses, and so on who lacked the very basics when it came to integrity. In fact, I would argue that it’s probably more prevalent to have leaders who lack integrity than to have leaders with integrity. People, by nature, are selfish beings. And if we take on a leadership role, having not worked to turn that selfishness into selflessness…then I believe our integrity will always be in question.
Take a moment to think about integrity and how integral it is to being a servant leader, one that puts others first. This is the only kind of leadership I’m interested in. I believe integrity is the differentiator between that style of leadership and all the others. Integrity is a must. So, how can you raise the bar when it comes to your own personal integrity? I’m glad you asked. I have three things for you to consider.
#1: Courage Over Comfort
And it can show up in the smallest ways…the courage to say no to somebody when you know you’re unable to keep the commitment to. That can be as simple as saying no to a client…one that you know you can get business from…but know you won’t be able to deliver in the timeframe they need or in the way they need. If you know you can’t deliver 100% of the expectation, then have the courage to say no, to turn down the business at that time. I’ll give you a few examples to illustrate my point. Attorneys that take on clients that they are not the best attorney for, real estate agents working in areas that they are not familiar with, builders taking on projects when they know they don’t have crews or time to assemble a crew to handle it, and so on.
It takes courage to have those conversations, to tell people no. It’s uncomfortable. It takes us outside of our comfort zones, but when we’re outside our comfort zones, that’s when growth happens. So, if you’re staying comfortable in a leadership role, there’s probably pieces that require courage that you’re shying away from. The courage to say no is a big one. There will always be things, opportunities, that can distract you, you have to have the courage to say that’s not the direction we’re going in. Sometimes there are people we’d like to get into business with, but we know they’re not going to buy into our vision or the direction we’re going in, so we have to say no. And sometimes we have to get out of business with people because we’ve figured out, we’re not going in the same direction.
Having courage to make hard decisions sometimes means we’re going to let somebody down, but we’re letting them down because we’re making the right decision, not because we’re failing to live up to our commitments.
#2 Doing What Is Right Over What Is Easy
The right thing, more often than not, is something people know. When it comes to integrity, it’s not enough to know what the right thing to do is…you’ve got to do it. And then do it again. Overtime, that will take courage. As you can see, there’s some overlap between #1 and #2. It takes courage to continue doing the right thing. It’s easier to not do the right thing a lot of the time. It’s easier to omit information rather than share the full picture when sharing the full picture could lead to more complicated conversations. However, that’s where depth of relationship usually shows up. You get it by really leaning in and having the conversation that needs to be had. It shows up when you do the right thing, not just as a leader, but as an organization, challenging the people in our organization to do the right thing.
I challenge you to think about a conversation that you’ve been struggling to have with someone in your world. Just ask yourself, what is the right thing to do here?
This is one of the things that separates us from all other beings on the planet. The ability to choose what is right versus what is easy. It’s like we have this gauge inside us that says “yeah, that’s the right thing to do” and then we have the choice whether to do it or not. We have to muster the courage to do the right thing.
#3 Actions Over Words
Don’t talk about what you’re going to do…go do it. There’s a statement that I’ve been playing around with in my head that I’d like to share. Knowledge is meaningless. Knowledge put into action is everything. More often than not, we know what the right thing to do is…if we take the time to really think about it. Leaders of countries to leaders of small businesses know what the right thing to do is, but they don’t always take the action that will get the ball moving in the right direction. If we just talk about…talk about…talk about…we’ve effectively avoided doing the right thing. There are many who get caught up in the conversation…pat themselves on the back for the progress they’re making in the conversation…all while never taking action and making real progress. Leadership is an active thing, it’s not a passive thing. Leadership shows up in deeds being done, steps made in the right direction. To have integrity in leadership, we have to be willing to take action, otherwise we’re just teaching a philosophy class…which is great if you want to teach a philosophy class. If the knowledge you have doesn’t result in action, it’s just a mental exercise. Leadership is not a mental exercise. Servant leadership…serving others…is never a mental exercise.
So, there you have it. Three ways to help you raise that integrity bar. Courage Over Comfort. Where in your role as a leader are you defaulting to comfort? How can you challenge yourself to more often choose courage over comfort? We’ll all fall short from time to time, that’s a given. But let’s recognize it and learn from it. Perhaps you could bring people into your life to hold you accountable to what you say you would do. Doing What Is Right Over What Is Easy. Servant Leadership is hard. Doing the right thing is rarely easy. This kind of leadership is going to challenge you. Actions Over Words. If you find yourself talking about the same thing you’ve been talking about for a while…you’re coming up short. You need action. I’m not saying reckless action, obviously. I’m not saying planning isn’t important…it is…and it needs to turn into actions. And we need to help others get into action. If we allow others to be stuck in neutral, we’re failing them too.
Integrity is not a requirement for leadership, but it should be. I hope this has been helpful for you. If you’d like to chat about it, reach out!