Preventing Integrity Outages
"The greatest way to live with honor in this life is to be what we pretend to be."
Moral virtues, and specifically integrity, lie at the heart and soul of all high performing, actively engaged organizations. When an organization has integrity, we can observe consistency between what it professes to be its core values and actions taken by people at all levels of the organization. When leaders make statements about desired behaviors and others don’t see those behaviors being modeled at the top, they are unlikely to demonstrate the behaviors. When leaders don’t live the core values, the probability that others will live them is low, and even small deviations are quickly noted and magnified. We describe such an organization as having an “integrity outage.”
Definitions of Integrity
Let’s consider several definitions of integrity. Integrity is 1) demonstrating the other moral virtues – trustworthiness, courage, humility, patience, and clarity, to name a few; 2) having consistency between our words and actions; and 3) making a commitment to ourselves to adhere to our core values, regardless of circumstances. In virtually every leadership survey, integrity is cited more often than any other desired leadership trait. Integrity lies at the heart of leadership because leaders can “buy” our head and hands, but we must choose to give them our heart. But integrity is not just a leadership virtue, it is a moral virtue that each and every one of us needs to demonstrate 100% of the time.
There are no degrees of personal integrity or “a little bit of integrity” – we either have it or we don’t. So given the fact that virtually all of us want to have it, what can we do to have personal integrity? In a Team Trek Journal article written almost ten years ago, Integrity: The Soul of Leadership, we offered the following Integrity principles and a few more:
Not determined by circumstances, but is revealed by our circumstances.
Rooted in core values, not in laws or policies.
Honoring our core values every time we have a decision to make.
Walking our talk and talking our walk.
Being an “inside/out” leader and leading by example.
Speaking from the heart, being honest, and showing respect for others.
Being virtuous, principled, authentic, transparent, and whole.
As Team Trek executive and team coaches, we sometimes observe significant integrity outages in our work with clients and their organizations. People are expected to collaborate with one another, while watching executives build and defend their own individual silos. People are asked to accept and embrace change, while observing executives who keep doing what they have always done. People are urged to talk straight and be honest with one another, while perceiving that executives are not honest, open, and direct with one another. People are held accountable for results, while witnessing executives make excuses and blame one another for lack of results. And finally, people are ordered to cut back on expenses, while noticing that executives continue to enjoy special perks and lavish lifestyles.
So the questions are: Do you observe any of these behaviors in your organization? In yourself? What does it reveal about integrity outages in your organization? In yourself? Most important, what are you going to do about it?