Integrity and leadership

Integrity is a fascinating concept. It is not easy to succinctly define, yet we all know it when we see it and recognize when it is absent. Common definitions mention “trustworthiness”, “strong moral compass”, “courage” and “living your values”. It is no wonder then, that integrity is routinely ranked as one of the most important traits which a leader can possess. We are all leaders in some capacity in our lives, whether formally or informally, and as such we benefit from striving to lead with integrity.

Those with integrity are often described as being trustworthy. Simply put, when your team trusts you, they are more likely to follow you. When trust is established, it inspires everyone to do better. It is the figurative version of a trust fall activity. They know you won’t let them fall so they freely embrace opportunity. They will be also more forgiving when things don’t go exactly as planned. When trust is established it opens the door for vulnerability. Vulnerability leads to possibility thinking and risk taking. When those norms are established the collective whole benefits, advancing the group’s trajectory toward success. Leading with integrity creates the safe environment to strive for more.

Another facet of integrity is not fearing uncomfortable truths. Life is hard; not every day is sunshine and roses. It is in these times of darkness and despair that those with integrity truly shine. You do not view the world through rose-colored glasses, but rather through a crisp 20/20 lens—which is an advantage when leading others. This acceptance of the situation as it is at this particular moment allows you to better prepare for what to do next. You can accurately assess strengths and weaknesses, and act accordingly. You anticipate where there might be resistance, fear or distractions, and counteract them before they come to fruition. Those who do not lead with integrity might consider giving up or rushing through these important steps. Your strong moral compass guides you in the right direction and doesn’t allow for shortcuts, grounding you in reality while allowing you to reach higher.

Those who act with integrity are also credited with being courageous. Speaking up when your opinion might be unpopular is no easy task. Challenging the norm when it is no longer aligned with your values can be frightening and alienating. However, leaders with integrity rise to the challenge of taking the more difficult path when they know it is the right one. Brene Brown’s definition of integrity addresses how we demonstrate personal integrity through our actions, “Integrity is choosing courage over comfort. It’s choosing what is right over what is fun, fast or easy. It’s choosing to practice your values rather than simply professing them.”

In Alpha Sigma Alpha, we frequently talk about living our values. When you combine this with the concept of leading with integrity, it simply means that what lives inside matches what is demonstrated outside. Your actions are transparent and congruent with your values. They represent your core so clearly that It is as if you are walking around with a sign hanging from your neck declaring your values. This is to live with integrity.

Living with integrity certainly will make you a better leader. If you hold yourself accountable, at the end of the day you can confidently look at yourself in the mirror and be proud of the leader you are. But more importantly, living your best self improves your life and the lives of those around you. So perform the simple, every day actions that embody your personal values. Stay true to your word. Give the benefit of the doubt. Be kind. Use people’s names whenever possible. Hold the door for others. Say please and thank you. Treat everyone you encounter with respect. Practice gratefulness. These are the daily habits of leaders with integrity—and the reason they succeed.

Jess Bridwell Wright


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