Chapter 5: Integrity in Leadership

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You are already of consequence in the world
if you are known as a man of strict integrity.
– Grenville Klesier

Integrity is a word spoken of a lot in today’s world, but sadly, not practiced as much.

Enron was an energy company based in Houston. It employed over 22,000 employees and was named the most innovative company for six consecutive years by Fortune Magazine.

However, in the span of 24 days, this company with claimed revenues of over US$100 billion was declared bankrupt.

What happened?

The lack of integrity in the leadership of Enron caused one of the greatest corporations in the US to fall like a house of cards. The accounting scandal in Enron had enabled it to misrepresent its revenues, hide its losses in subsidiary organizations, but it was not too long that they were found out.

7 years later in 2008, the same greed and lack of integrity caused many giant investment banks to fall apart, sending ripples throughout the financial world. The investment bankers never learnt from what happened in Enron and while the times were different, the problem was the same.

The problem was and is integrity.

5.1 Integrity is a Foundation

Integrity is not something you develop later on in life.

Integrity is foundation which you build your life upon. In the Bible, Jesus compares two foundations that men build their lives upon, either on rock or on sand.

The house that was built upon the rock survived a terrible storm, but the one built upon sand, when it experienced the storm, crumbled and fell to the ground.

When you build your corporation upon strict integrity, you build a way for the corporation to be a lasting success, like a house upon solid rock.

When you build your life upon strict integrity, you can expect to become a person of great significance and influence.

More so in today’s world.

With all the events happening in the world today, people are truly crying out for an authentic, genuine leader who has a heart not for their own interest, but for the greater interest of the community.

However, if you choose to build your life upon lies and half-truths; you are in fact, building a house upon sand.

Many years down the road, you’ll witness the falling apart of your life like a house of cards.

Imagine this:

In order to get away with your secret affair, you lie to your wife that you’re just hanging out with the guys at the pub. One day, your good friend Ken (whom you were supposed to be out with) calls home to ask where you were. Your wife answers the phone.

When you get home, your wife checks with you and you quickly make up another story about being held up at work at the last minute.

Next thing you know, your wife walks into your office one day wanting to deliver dinner to you because you were working late; and finds out you were not in office at all.

Once again, she demands an explanation and you cook up another story in the spur of the moment.

All this will continue happening until the day the truth comes out; then your life falls apart like a stack of cards.

Your wife is hurt; she wants a divorce; she claims custody and compensation from the court.

Your family is shamed because of what you have done. You are looked down upon by your peers for betraying the wife whom loved you so much.

This is very much like the case when you choose to build your life on anything less than strict integrity. If it’s anything less than the truth, it will fall apart in time.

5.2 Integrity Begins Today

Integrity begins with the smallest things in your life.

It can be about keeping a promise to your kids about returning home at 7pm and spending quality time with them.

It can be about returning a loan to a friend in the agreed upon time.

It can be just as simple as being on time for your appointments with your colleagues, friends and your bosses.

When you choose to gossip about your colleagues; when you choose to make promises you cannot keep; when you borrow money but do not return it; you are building your life upon sand.

If you cannot display integrity in your everyday life; you simply cannot do it for anything bigger like your team, your organization or your company. You cannot create a culture of integrity if you, the leader do not have integrity yourself.

Ask yourself:

What is it in your life that you can improve on with regards to integrity?

Do people around you consider you to be a person of integrity? Are you trustworthy? Why or why not?

Do you keep your promises? Give one occasion where you kept a promise even though it was hard to keep.

5.3 Practical Steps you can Take

5.3.1 Start being on time on your appointments.

The simplest thing you can begin doing is to start being on time for your meetings; be it casual or formal.

It doesn’t matter if it’s an important board meeting with the directors of your company or if it’s meeting up with your old friends from university.

A man of integrity behaves in a single manner, no matter the circumstances. It doesn’t matter if its important people, or just old friends; he treats them the same.

I remember reading about the Pastor Yonggi Cho, founder of the world’s largest church. He says he always reaches his meetings 15 minutes before the scheduled time.

This is a man managing the largest congregation in the world! With almost a million members, you would expect him to be giving the same excuse as most people; “There are just too many things; sorry guys I’m late for this meeting.”

This is indeed a man of integrity in action.

One of my friends made a simple quote, “You know, if you’re 5 minutes early, you’re on time. If you’re on time, then you’re late!”

Start being on time for your meetings and take this small first step towards a life of integrity.

5.3.2 Don’t make promises you can’t keep.

If you’re the type of person that doesn’t know how to say “No”, then its time to change.

I have had my experiences with people who agreed not because they were passionately interested or committed to the cause, but because they simply didn’t know how to say “No”.

If you’re the type of person that promises a lot and performs very little, it’s time to evaluate and reflect before you give your word.

The truth is this; if you make a commitment that you cannot keep, you aren’t doing the person a favour anyway. In fact, you’re allowing another person to act and behave contingent on the fact you were going to fulfil your promise.

Simple example:

Your friend asks you if you are able to help out in a particular event he is organizing. Although you already have a busy schedule, you agree anyway because he is your good friend.

He asks you to be in charge of logistics for the event.

But on the day of the event, because you have other prior commitments, you give your friend a call to inform him that you cannot make it down for the event.

As you only tell him on the day itself, your friend panics and frantically searches for another person who can help him.

You friend becomes disappointed and upset with you. Your relationship suffers.

The better thing is this: If you don’t confidently believe that you can keep a promise, don’t give your word.

You are doing the person a favour.

5.3.3 Be brutally honest with yourself

One of the best things you can do to become a person of integrity is to be brutally honest with yourself.

There’s a saying that goes, “Be strict with yourself, and lenient with others.”

Constantly challenge yourself to a higher standard.

If you feel you’ve been too lazy recently, then challenge yourself to do something. Set a schedule and follow it.

If you feel you’ve not been honest with others lately, challenge yourself to be honest.

If you feel that you’ve been purposeless in your life, challenge yourself to find something you love to do, and do it!

This is all part of becoming a man of integrity. If you can learn to keep your promises to yourself, keeping your promises to others will not be hard.

This last point in fact, brings me to the point of the next chapter…

Move on to Chapter 6: Self-Discipline

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