Leading with Integrity
In the last blog entry, Leading with Connection, I mentioned this next post would be about how putting your core values and beliefs (among other things) into action can help bring you closer to showing up as the leader you aspire to be.
What this really means is living in and leading with INTEGRITY.
How would you describe your level of integrity as a leader and as a human being? Many of us tend to self-rate our moral high ground more generously than those around us might. What would the people around you say if you were to ask them for feedback? It’s obviously not a cut and dry measure, of course, but if approaching people to ask them how much integrity you have as a person and leader concerns you – keep reading.
What is Integrity?
How does it show up in your workplace and in your life?
How can you lead from a place of personal and professional integrity?
The word integrity encompasses several qualities and behaviors a person can possess and demonstrate during their interactions with others. These traits include being trustworthy, honest, “making more deposits than withdrawals” (Stephen R. Covey, Brené Brown), not being duplicitous, and doing things that are morally right – even when it’s hard.
But having integrity means being and doing these things even when people are not watching. As Covey suggests, living and leading with integrity means that when you show up, you do so by “conforming [your] reality to [your] words” and “[being] loyal to those who are not present.”
If you are showing up with people in one way, but are very different when you’re alone – you may want to do a check in on what beliefs and fears you may have about your true, authentic self – and why you believe you need to live a “double life”. (That’s exhausting, by the way – been there, done that). It’s possible that before you even ask yourself how much integrity you have, you may need to question, “How authentic am I?” Let’s be clear – you can’t lead with integrity if you’re not presenting the truth of who you are.
Here is a practical and simple definition from Brené Brown:
“[Integrity] is choosing courage over comfort; it’s choosing what’s right over what’s fun, fast, or easy; it’s practicing your values, not just professing them.”
Five Key Areas
So, what do you need to take a deeper look at to demonstrate more integrity in your life and in your leadership? Here are five categories for you to consider to gain more awareness of your own integrity.
Hone Your Values
In the first part of this leadership blog series, “Leading with Vision”, clarifying your core values and beliefs were mentioned as a key step in defining your why. These values and beliefs bleed into everything you do – so how you show up in your why and in your vision is also part of how you show up with integrity.
Additionally, Jim Collins talks about letting go of your ego and directing your ambitions toward your company first to let the people who work for you know you have their back; while displaying humility as a leader will increase your effectiveness with them. Also, when you try to understand before expecting to be understood, and consistently keep your promises and commitments, your people will be drawn to you and will want to do the very best they can for the company and the customers/clients you seek to serve.
As mentioned above – honesty is part and parcel of any leader who desires to lead with integrity. And you get tons of brownie points for being kind too!
Insert Equity Here
Also mentioned in “Leading with Connection”, inclusiveness and cultural awareness are must-haves toward leading with integrity. Equity is a concept that has been around for a long time but has, unfortunately, too slowly gained traction in all aspects of life and work.
So, what are some thoughts and practices you could consider to be a more equitable leader?
Become more culturally aware of and responsive to the stories of the people in your company – be sure to continue educating yourself – but also consider the following:
Encourage Win-Win Solutions
In his book, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”, Covey talks about incorporating a win-win attitude when it comes to solving problems or meeting each other’s needs. In this way, no one loses, and no one feels smaller or duped as a result. Thinking win-win works in every situation – if you’re willing to consider that it’s not all about you – and as a leader – it’s not.
Leave Hierarchy Flat
What is the purpose of hierarchy anyway?
Traditionally, hierarchy has been used to instill respect and fear in employees so that they will stay in line and do their job as they were hired to do. But, in Jim Collins’ book, “Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap…And Others Don’t”, very little hierarchy existed in great companies because the leader chose the right people and created a culture of work ethic and discipline.
Being a non-hierarchial leader also means keeping your ego in check so you can better empower autonomy among your team, as well as feel more comfortable delegating tasks and projects to them.
Practice Open Communication
Strong communication skills will get you everywhere. But it’s not just about what you’re saying, it’s also how, when, where, and why you’re saying it that will make the difference to whether you are promoting equity in your workplace environment. The open communication street goes both ways – what’s allowed for the leader must also be permitted for the team around you. Creating safe spaces and norms for communication can help with this, and listening attentively and actively will give you the information needed to make it happen.
Part of your role as a leader is to inspire and lift people up to be all they can be within your company. Giving them opportunities to upskill, allowing them to shift roles within the company, or letting them chase a new opportunity when they express a desire to do so, all help to support your human-centric, equitable leadership. It also makes you a great person to work for.
Keep this in mind: “…effectiveness with people, efficiency with things” – S.R. Covey
Having Discipline Matters
Leaders with integrity possess self-discipline and set expectations within the workplace for employees to be disciplined as well. Generating this “culture of discipline” (J. Collins) stems from many of the other points that have already been mentioned in this series. Things such as hiring the right people, leaving hierarchy flat, communicating expectations and norms openly, sharing the vision, and implementing equitable practices and beliefs.
As a leader, reflect on the following questions to check in on current discipline levels:
What are your current work ethic practices and beliefs?
How do you support and encourage a disciplined work culture?
How much professional will do you demonstrate daily?
At what levels are your drive and motivation to produce sustained results in your business?
How determined are you?
How do you hold yourself accountable for everything you do or don’t do in your organization?
Take Ownership Now
While holding yourself accountable is part of leading with integrity, taking ownership for everything that happens in your business is next-level leadership integrity. This means that even if an employee screws up, you’re willing to accept responsibility for it with your clients and customers.
While leading with integrity means taking full responsibility for whatever happens, it also means being someone who gives credit where credit is due.
Additionally, getting comfortable with being uncomfortable and showing vulnerability is key. How are you doing with that?
To dig deeper into your ownership tendencies, think about the answers to these questions:
How does your perspective shift when faced with challenges?
How often do you blame others?
When was the last time you recognized and gave credit to those who are shining?
How quickly do you try to repair relationships when things go south with someone?
How often do you admit to mistakes or wrong assumptions or misunderstandings?
How often do you ask for feedback from others on your performance as a leader?
Muster Your Resolve
Digging deep to find the resolve to keep going some days can be challenging. If you have started a business or an organization, you know this to be true. Some days, you probably ask yourself if it’s all worth it, don’t you? The answer to that comes back to your vision and your why. Knowing these and being crystal clear on them will get you out of bed in the morning every single day – if they are about and for the right reasons, of course. If they are, then doing the right thing or what needs to be done – even when it’s the hardest thing you’ve ever had to do – will prove your nettle and demonstrate your integrity to yourself and others.
Consider these questions:
Which shows up more often – courage or fear?
How do you approach confrontation, tough decisions, or taking risks?
Permission to Breathe
Leading with integrity can be even more difficult to do when you are not taking care of your own mind, body, and spirit needs. Ensuring you are doing things that re-energize and re-calibrate you is a necessary part of showing up wholeheartedly in your integrity. Make sure you prioritize your own well-being, but also support your team in taking care of themselves as well.
Keep It Simple
In this age of faster, sooner, easier, NOW – leading with integrity can be challenging to do – no matter your level of experience in your role or the kind of person you are. However, being the leader you want to be requires showing up authentically with clear values, self-discipline, determination, and a sense of fairness, justice, awareness, and responsibility.
Which areas do you feel you are showing up with integrity?
Which ones do you feel you need to grow in?
In the next 3DLife™ leadership blog, I will be focusing on how you can fuel your daily leadership impact through motivation, inspiration, positivity, and persuasion.
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Until next time…
Take Care & Keep It Simple,
Michelle Hurlburt is a Life & Executive Coach, as well as a Social and Emotional Learning Coach & Trainer. She holds B.Ed. and M.Ed. in Leadership degrees and has been certified by the Certified Coaches Federation as a Coach Practitioner, Group Coach Practitioner, and Certified Master Coach Practitioner. Michelle has been a tenant with Ignite Labs since November 2019.