Much has been written about the importance of integrity from the time of the ancient greek philosophers to modern day leaders. In exploring the topic over the weekend, I found the following three quotes enlightening.
“Allow yourself to think only those thoughts that match your principles and can bear the bright light of day. Day by day, your choices, your thoughts, your actions fashion the person you become. Your integrity determines your destiny.” –Heraclitus
“Dependability, integrity, the characteristic of never knowingly doing anything wrong, that you would never cheat anyone, that you would give everybody a fair deal. Character is a sort of an all-inclusive thing. If a man has character, everyone has confidence in him.” –Omar Nelson Bradley
“There is no such thing as a minor lapse of integrity” –Tom Peters
Which quote speaks to you? Do you agree that your integrity determines your destiny? Or that there is no such thing as a minor lapse of integrity?
When you think about your own leadership, how have you developed integrity? Are there leaders whose integrity you admire? What specifically do they do, that tells you they have high integrity?
In February we’ll be exploring the second of MnSCU’s leadership competencies, Acting with Integrity. Like the Supreme Court judge who famously commented, “I know it when I see it,” we as leaders like to think we know when we’re acting with integrity. But what does it actually mean?
Our MnSCU definition includes the following specific behaviors:
- Abides by all relevant laws, rules, and regulations
- Encourages others to abide by the same laws, rules, and regulations
- Gives credit where credit is due
- Delivers what is promised
- Admits and learns from mistakes
- Corrects own mistakes to utmost ability
That’s a challenging list. Like most leaders, some of these items come easily to me and others take more work. For example, I have to continually remind myself about the importance of consistently delivering on my promises. To me, that means that I should not promise things I can’t deliver. I need to be realistic about what is within my control and what will require participation from others – and not make promises for colleagues or team members without their input.
If I do make a promise, then I have to follow through. I’ve been working hard to eliminate casual comments about “I’ll send you that article” or “let’s set up a meeting” unless I intend to act on them in a timely manner. For example, I always ask people to follow up on informal elevator conversations with an email reminder. Since I’m usually on my way to another activity, it greatly increases the odds of my remembering my promise when I return to my desk. I also try to intentionally treat project deadlines as promises. That helps me to hold myself accountable for meeting my commitments.
I’ve found that consistency in little things helps build a pattern of integrity in larger things. What does it mean to you to lead with integrity? How do you hold yourself accountable?
Dee Anne Bonebright