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  • Writer's pictureShandy Welch

Integrity and Leadership

If you know me, you know that the concept of integrity is at the forefront of my work and personal values. I have found that it is the universal thread that binds us or destroys our work and relationships. Having integrity with all we do and say requires constant awareness, self-accountability, internal strength, and grit.

Andy Stanley’s most recent podcast addresses this very issue as it relates to leadership. He defines integrity as: “Doing what you ought to, even if it costs you”. You could argue that a small breach in integrity may be worth it, it may allow a “better deal”, a quicker result, and a long-awaited promotion. All of these may be true but there is a cost. Leadership is a marathon, your success is not contingent on one event or moment, it is a culmination of behaviors, interactions, trust, and relationships. People know, and people remember. More importantly, YOU remember, you are aware of these micro-breakdowns that weave the fabric of your being. The secrets we hold, even with self-justification, wear on you.

When we sacrifice our integrity it is easy to justify yet, have you accounted for the shrapnel? The diverse number of people who are now responsible to pick up the pieces, covering for you, and making amends on your behalf? You have sent a clear message, “I value this outcome or myself more than I value you, the company, or this project.” You have now stepped into a breach of trust. A very difficult hole to dig yourself out of.

Maintaining integrity requires constant awareness and intentionality. To not only hold your values up again each decision you make but also to recognize that each small breach of integrity allows the next one to be that much easier. The integrity bar is lowered ever so slightly and your acceptance of “sub-par” begins to feel slightly more comfortable.

Over time, the standard behavior has morphed into something you previously would not recognize or accept. When we witness a great breach of integrity, I can guarantee you, it is subsequent to smaller pervasive lapses that grew over time. Stanley suggests it is a culmination of a “series of unwise decisions.” (very thoughtfully put!!)

He notes that this lapse in integrity typically shows up in one of four areas. Areas that have a tempting pull to satisfy our ego and desires.

  • Finance (our need or desire for money)

  • Liberty (our desire to acquire freedom and independence)

  • Recognition (establishing credit or a position for the work we do)

  • Pleasure (to feel valued and satisfy our ego).

He also notes that if you are being honest with yourself, you are well aware of when these lapses begin. We rationalize, justify, and use creative excuses and language to convince ourselves and others that it is not what it appears to be… but you know the truth.

It is at this moment that you ask yourself, what do I value most? What am I willing to sacrifice (finance, liberty, recognition, or pleasure) to stand in the shoes of integrity? What am I willing to give up?

To err is human. Can one recover trust, reputation, and integrity? It begins with identifying and aligning with your values, committing to change, and integrating a strong sense of self-leadership in everything you do and say.

Begin by owning your participation, apologizing to the ones you have hurt (not defending), and developing an accountability plan or partner. Words are cheap and will not serve you since the trust is already broken, actions over time are what matters. Commit to the long term and lead with humility, empathy, and integrity.

My Challenge to You:

  • Allow this idea to sink in by listening to Andy Stanley’s latest podcast: Integrity in the Life of a Leader

  • In a moment of quiet, connect with the aspects in your life that are out of alignment and ask yourself, is this linked to my lack of integrity?

Lack of integrity and holding secrets are pervasive and have been shown to create physical changes in our bodies. They can alter our perception of events and exacerbate how we experience a physical sensation, literally, we feel the heavy load of secrecy. Having an outlet to discuss these lapses in judgment has been shown to relieve this burden.

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