7 Principles for Achieving Leadership Integrity

Leadership integrity is one of the most important traits a leader can possess. When your actions match your words, people are more likely to trust and follow you.

This means learning about and following the seven key principles that will help you stay honest and true to your values. By following these principles, you can build trust with your team and lead with integrity.

What challenges with integrity are we facing?

The recent Gallup surveys show that employees in Europe and United States lack trust in their leaders. The employees also fail to understand what their leaders believe, which suggests there’s a communication problem between management and employees.

The data shows only 40% of employees think their employers would do anything if they brought up concerns about ethics or integrity.

Trust is an important factor in the workplace, and when less than half of all employees think their leaders have questionable standards, there’s a problem. Leaders need employees’ trust for them to lead effectively. If people can’t do what it takes because they don’t have this vital connection, then how will anything get done?

What can we do about leadership integrity?

Integrity is a key ingredient in the recipe for success of any organization. We’ve seen it positively affect many aspects of our lives, including work environments and relationships with others.

Leaders who are honest about their intentions can gain greater trust from employees. They are also more successful over time because they don’t have any hidden agendas or motives.

One of the people I admire most has summarized this in a truly meaningful way. Warren Buffet, one of the most successful investors of all times said:

“In looking for people to hire, you look for three qualities: integrity, intelligence, and energy. And if they don’t have the first one, don’t even bother with the other two.”

This really emphasizes the importance of integrity and I often think about how this translates into real situations. There’s a simple exercise that I use regularly to do integrity check.

You can simply answer these questions to check yourself too:

  • Am I responsible for my own behavior?
  • Do I hold myself accountable for the decisions I make?
  • Am I a good role model for my people?
  • Do I follow through on my commitments?

If the answer to any of these questions is other than YES, dig deeper into the challenges that caused you to answer maybe or no. While there are many ways to exercise honesty and have strong moral standards, I’ve put together 7 principles for achieving leadership integrity.

1. Nurture a good reputation

We often base leaders’ reputation on their performance. I urge to look beyond metrics. Good reputation can be built on honesty, reliability, and responsibility. You can also be respectful of your direct reports and other team members.

I know you’ve heard this many times. It takes a lifetime to build good reputation, but a moment to damage it, sometimes irreversibly. One thing to note here is that the leaders’ reputation also affects company’s reputation. Nurture that good reputation and you’ll see amazing benefits for everyone around you.

2. Be an outstanding role model

I had many role models in my personal and professional life. One thing that separated great role models from average ones always fascinated me. They took responsibility to be a good role model.

The best thing about it, they always showed it and never told it. Model the behavior that you expect from your people. The benefits are immeasurable, and the leadership compounding effect is truly remarkable.

3. Keep high moral standards

Leaders who act with integrity share a set of moral and ethical values. I won’t go into the details and differences between the two. What I saw in highly successful leaders is that they found a balance between what is morally and ethically right.

They also stayed away from questionable practices like cutting corners. By leading this way, you will help build trust among your people. They will absorb good practices and learn which morals and ethics to uphold.

4. Take responsibility for your actions

While this one is often self-explanatory, I have to remind you of it. We all make mistakes and sometimes, things don’t work out the way we planned them. That’s okay.

Instead of hiding your mistakes or blaming other for them, take responsibility. Do your best to fix those mistakes promptly. If you can’t fix them right away, learn from that experience and use it to prevent future mistakes. Doing so shows your people that you care. It will further build trust among your employees and encourage them to be more open about their own mistakes.

5. Honor your commitments

The best way to earn trust and respect from your people is by being reliable. They want you to stay true to all promises, including those about meeting deadlines or fulfilling commitments. Any commitment you make directly influences your integrity.

I want you to be realistic here. Know where the line between “yes” and “no” is. Don’t commit more than necessary. It’s better to say no to something than getting yourself over-committed, and then not following through on your commitments.

6. Tell the truth, point to hope

Communication is the key to any successful relationship. Whether it’s with family, friends or at work – you need transparency for everyone involved to grow together.

The way to lead with integrity is by being straightforward and honest. The more information you share, the happier your team will likely feel with their work environment as well. Some of you might disagree with this. Should I really share everything with my people? The answer is “it depends.”

Sometimes, there might be changes in your company and you won’t be able to share it with your teams. In this case, share what you can. This is crucial, especially if it will affect people’s livelihood.

7. Consistency is vital

I found this to be true on many occasions. All great leaders I know and work with have matching words and actions. Whatever they say, they also do. That is the first part.

The second part is to do it consistently. This solidifies the commitment leaders made when they chose to lead. Yes, LEADERSHIP IS A CHOICE. It also shows to your team members that leaders who consistently act with integrity, can serve as an example.

How can you achieve leadership integrity?

Trust is earned through integrity. A great leader — a trustworthy one— demonstrates this quality. This leads to gaining the confidence of those around them and having their dedicated employees become their strongest supporters.

Achieving trust in any situation takes more than just words. Actions must speak louder words. Maintaining a good reputation is essential in any field, but it’s especially important for those in positions of trust and authority.

As an ethical leader, you set the standard for your team and organization. By following these practices, you can be an outstanding role model and uphold the high moral standards that contribute to a healthy workplace culture.

What have been your experiences with practicing integrity in the workplace?

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John Todorovic

John Todorovic

I help aspiring and existing leaders improve their skills through effective coaching.

As a restless knowledge seeker, I love acquiring new knowledge on a daily basis through various types of research techniques. All this aligns with my life's mission: sharing knowledge is a privilege and an obligation.

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