Leadership shadows

Who can deny the importance of integrity? Who would dare to not list integrity as a defining characteristic of leadership? It just sounds like the right thing to say. We have all read the headlines describing leaders who acted without integrity and destroyed their careers or damaged their reputations or the reputation of their organizations. Yet most of our day-to-day leadership choices are much more mundane and pedestrian – not likely to get a mention in a headline, or even a Facebook status update or a tweet!

However, I believe that it is in these smaller moments that integrity is even more important for leaders. As leaders we cast shadows. Our day-to-day behaviors and how they are viewed by others influence the people we lead and their belief in our organizations. People on your team will assign deep motives to each and every action you take. As a leader your actions send messages about what is important and valued, even when you think you are just “doing your job.”

In my work, I’ve learned that the small daily actions I take make a much bigger impression than I am often aware. As leaders, these actions demonstrate our integrity to those we work with. I still remember the time when a team member shared how important it was to him that I rescheduled a planning meeting. He had mentioned briefly how hard it was for him to get to the meeting due to his child care drop-off schedule. For me it just required a quick calendar search and it didn’t seem like a big deal. But it was to him.  He told me it was the first time a leader had ever made a change for him. A small day-to-day choice by me cast a very large shadow that made a big difference for another person. That is how I define integrity as a leader.

What small choices are you making that demonstrate your integrity?

Todd Thorsgaard


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