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Got Integrity? How To Evaluate If You Do

When business leaders are asked to describe key traits that correspond with the best managers and professionals they deal with, “high integrity” often tops the list.

The irony though, is that many of these same leaders do not have a clear understanding of what it really means to “lead” with integrity.

Leadership integrity is not merely a moral trait but a dynamic process of making empathetic, responsible, and sound decisions – doing what is right and fair, following through with your commitments, and being trustworthy and honest.

In short, integrity means doing the right thing, consistently.

Doing The Right Thing, Consistently

Behaving with integrity is probably easiest in the presence of others.

Knowing that others will observe and judge us often puts us on our best
behavior.

Sometimes, in situations where no one is directly observing or
where an action cannot easily be linked back to the individual, people are tempted to relax their standards and act in their own best interest rather than doing what is right or best.

There’s a saying: “To really know someone, watch what they do, not what they say.”

For some of us, the most difficult aspect of integrity is consistently doing the things we have promised.

Especially in modern, ever-changing work environments, at times it might be difficult to keep all of our commitments.

We should hold ourselves to high standards in this area and be the type of people others can count on to deliver what we said we would.

Most importantly however, as effective leaders we cannot ignore unethical behavior.

Ignoring the unethical behavior of others is also unethical and can lead to great harm for the company, yourself and all concerned.

Your Integrity Audit and Leader Self-Evaluation

Just as organizations conduct systematic audits of their financials and other key processes you is the case for all Leaders wishing to become more effective in their ability to lead with integrity. Without self-awareness, you cannot understand your strengths and weakness. It is self-awareness that allows the leader of all levels know where they are and where they need to go.

To help keep you on the “integrity track” perform this self-audit quarterly on the 10 most important behaviors for acting with integrity.

Use the simple scale from 1 (Low) to 5 (High) to rate yourself (and others)_

How well do I exhibit…

  • Ethical and honest behavior in my business dealings?
  • Ethical and honest behavior in my dealings with people?
  • Fairness in my expectations of others?
  • The correct behaviors in spite of the consequences that may happen to me?
  • Delivering what I have promised?
  • The fair and consistent treatment of others?
  • Telling the truth?
  • Following through on my commitments?
  • Not ignoring the wrong doing of others?
  • Giving voice to my values by not remaining silent?

Selecting for Integrity

Selecting leaders who demonstrate integrity is key to ensuring positive organizational outcomes. Why so? Because integrity plays a significant role in the decision process used by associates/employees when deciding whom they will follow, which they will trust, to whom they will be loyal and committed, and ultimately for whom they will perform.

Given this if you are selecting leaders where integrity is an important aspect of the role or if you have questions about the integrity of a candidate or someone on your team, the following selection questions will prove helpful:

  • Describe for me an ethical business dilemma that you have faced. What were the circumstances? What did you do? Why did you take this particular course of action?
  • Tell me about two situations in which you have seen others be unfair or dishonest. What happened? What would you have done differently? Why?
  • Discuss a time when your integrity was challenged. How did you handle it?
  • What would you do or what have you done if/when someone asked you to do something unethical?
  • Have you ever experienced a loss for doing what is right?
  • How have you developed others to give voice to their values and not remain silent in the workplace?

Integrity: A Final Thought

Every day, in big ways and small ways, in visible or invisible situations, leaders have the opportunity to demonstrate their integrity and as importantly the opportunity to develop integrity in those they lead.

Q: What will you do today to make progress here?

Robert Denker, Ph.D., MBA , is managing principal of rd&partners, an executive coaching and assessment firm that helps organizations across North America and Europe build and retain their top performing talent. For more information, visit www.rdpusa.com.

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