Got integrity? Leaders must model it to inspire it.

You are entirely responsible for your integrity.

Would people around you – colleagues, neighbors, family, friends – say you live your life with integrity? If you were to describe what criteria might be used to evaluate a person’s integrity, what evidence would you consider?

  • Do you keep your promises?
  • Are you known for honesty and transparency?
  • Do you allow others the freedom to speak their minds?
  • Do you uphold your commitments?
  • Do you treat others with kindness and respect?
  • Do you give fair pay, credit where due, and overall treat others with equality?
  • Are you known for embodying your organization’s mission and values?
  • Do you meet deadlines or at least communicate about changes?
  • Do you have systems in place so that details are taken care of?
  • Are you known for being on time and ending on time, therefore respecting others’ time?

Other people around you observe your patterns – your plans, decisions, and actions – every day. They probably have an opinion about how well you “do what you say you will do” in their interactions with you – and observations of you. Likewise, you form opinions about those with whom you interact and those you lead.

When I consult with clients who want to improve the quality of their work cultures, integrity is one of the most frequently noted values leaders want demonstrated in their workplace. It comes up every time.

Here’s an example. A three-state division of a large retailer decided to add one value to the company founder’s original three values. Those three were excellence, respect, and service.

This division chose to add “personal integrity” as a fourth value.

What that says to me is that the leaders and team members across their division do not consistently live with integrity at work. If they were demonstrating consistent integrity, a different value would be top on my clients’ lists of desirable workplace values.

Leaders see this integrity gap and know it must be addressed for their culture to be purposeful, positive, and productive, every day.

We must accept that we have an integrity gap. And, we must act purposefully to address the gap we can change – within ourselves.

You know this to be true: you can’t help someone else with their integrity. You can lead by example and be an inspiration by your consistency, and you can put systems in place to encourage accountability and good habits. All those things, though may not cause others to demonstrate integrity. Individuals must be intentional about tracking their commitments and promises, then delivering on those, every time.

These three practices can boost awareness of integrity in your workplace:

  • Talk about integrity – formalize it in your organization’s stated values and discuss what integrity looks like in daily interactions.
  • Demonstrate integrity yourself; self-evaluate how you are doing in various areas regarding commitments you make.
  • Hold others accountable for their commitments with appropriate consequences when necessary; encourage communication and honesty in all situations, internally in teams and externally with clients.

Each of us must simply master our own integrity. Even better, we must master our own integrity in service to others.

You see, a person can live with integrity to their own selfish wants and needs. It’s an “I win, you lose” equation.

That’s not what we need in our world today. Even though sometimes it is hard to choose honesty and transparency, or admit a shortcoming, in the end, that builds better relationships and better business transpires.

Don’t leave your integrity to chance. Do what you say you will do. Demonstrate consistent commitment to your commitments, every day. And hold your team accountable for doing the same.

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