Where is the place in leadership for integrity?
I get so frustrated listening to so much ‘talk the talk’ in the industry.
Words are splashed around as if they alone justify right or successful action.
So let’s break this down.
Let’s start with looking at the guts of what integrity is before we even bother to try to consider how to apply it to our roles as Leaders.
Integrity, and all its complexities of definition, is essentially doing the right thing even if doing so doesn’t get you what you want and isn’t reciprocated by others.
now let’s consider how, or in fact if, we can apply this to ourselves as
leaders and our actions toward our followership?
This is perhaps one of the most difficult things to achieve in developing yourself as a leader for several reasons.
The first is that you must authentically evaluate your actual ownership of integrity as an inherent value of yourself as a human being.
In which direction at any point in time does your moral compass point, and what are the factors that make it oscillate in either direction?
After all is it not only the integrity that we possess as an individual human being that can possibly determine the integrity that we can possess as a leader?
Some of the challenges maintaining integrity in your leadership role, as outlined by Emler (2019) include “…resisting the temptation of personal gain at collective expense; foregoing the attractions of tyranny; managing justice; pursuing a moral mandate; avoiding mission failure; minimizing collateral damage in pursuit of the mission…”.
Secondly, how do you apply “doing the right thing” by your followers even when this does not guarantee you the outcome, appreciation, or reciprocation from them that you want or that serves your organisation?
Your followers, and your organisation, may not view ‘integrity’ in the same manner that you do. Integrity is a subjectively values based quality, and as such perceptions of its presence and its action will vary from individual to individual.
In this respect it would seem that integrity alone is somewhat lacking, as there seems to be a need to have the strength to maintain your position and action of integrity in the face of adverse responses.
Do you have that strength?
Furthermore, how you strongly maintain your positions and actions of integrity with others, when your organisation ‘outcomes measures’ or ‘strategic solutions’ may in fact require action that is difficult to pair with integrity?
The extraneous pressures of KPIs, restructuring, policies and procedures, and organisational norms or culture often leave little room for us to act with our ‘whole’ self and hence our ‘whole’ integrity.
Peng & Wei (2019) found that “Leader behavioral integrity positively affects employee voice via team independence climate, but only when ethical values are emphasized in organizations.” This would suggest that your integrity alone will not get results unless your organisation is aligned.
So where is the place in leadership for integrity?
How do you make a place in your leadership of others for integrity, while also giving consideration to the differences in individual perceptions and the extraneous pressures of the organisation?
Perhaps this question cannot be answered until first you contemplate why your integrity, and applying it to your leadership role, is even important to you.
Are you committed to not only influencing your followership with your behavioural integrity, but also to influence your organisation with entrainment?
If we are going to “walk the walk” of leadership integrity, it is pertinent that we delve deeper into the function and purpose of our choice to be such a leader, and explore more completely the realities of how to apply this value effectively.
Emler, N. (2019). Seven moral challenges of leadership. Consulting Psychology Journal: Practice and Research, 71(1), 32-46. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/cpb0000136
Peng, H. & Wei, F. J Bus Ethics (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10551-019-04114-x