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  • Leading with Honor and Integrity

    Published on Saturday, November 12, 2011

    Leading with Honor and Integrity

    Many people speak of the importance of integrity, myself included, and yet when we talk about it we often assume that what we are showing integrity towards is a good thing. In preparation for conference presentations in the US and Canada I came across a very interesting article that challenged me to rethink how I talk about the importance of integrity.

    In the Fall 2009 issue of Rotman magazine (produced by the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto) an interview with Michael Jensen covers the topic of integrity, as well as morality and ethics.  Jensen, an emeritus professor at Harvard, has written quite a bit lately about the importance of integrity.

    In his writings he challenges all of us to remember that integrity by itself is value neutral, the term coming from the same root as integer, meaning whole or complete. So when we think about a person of integrity, and use that as a positive description, what often remains hidden is the fact that what we find so positive about that person of integrity is the fact that she lives by a set of values and principles that we admire. It is her integrity towards her values that is positive, not necessarily the fact that she practices integrity by honoring her word and delivering on her promises. Surely if the values she lived by were ones we found offensive – elitist, greedy, arrogant and abusive in her treatment of people with less power than her – would we admire her integrity towards those values?

    Jensen’s interview provided me with an insight about the importance of always remembering the first part that should go with any comment about someone’s integrity. For the trustworthy leaders whom I admire, their integrity is a positive quality because of the honor with which they assume their leadership responsibilities. A trustworthy leader’s actions that convey the honor of his position, the honor with which he treats people and the honor that he feels as a leader are what matter. When a trustworthy leader acts with humility, is respectful of others and uses the power of his position and his personal power to the benefit of others, then he is honorable. And his integrity to those qualities is admirable.

    Great trustworthy leaders are great because they seek to build trust-based relationships with the people with whom they work. Much of their success as leaders is due to the incredible amounts of discretionary effort they elicit from their colleagues, co-workers, and far-flung employees – all of whom feel a strong connection to the positive experience of working with a leader of honor and integrity.

    As you consider your own leadership style, and the successes and challenges you’ve faced, please remember to look also at what it is that you show integrity towards – what actions match your words, and what promises you deliver on. If your words and promises are credible, respectful and fair, then you will surely be heading in the right direction to be seen as trustworthy.

    Amy Lyman, PhD

    Co-founder of the Great Place to Work® Institute and author of The Trustworthy Leader



Your comments

Trent published on 10/04/2014 at 16:16

A fantastic exploration to the personal biases we have when speaking about 'integrity' and 'honor'.

Great read.


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