Integrity is not outdated, it’s a crucial leadership quality

Leadership Memo 2021-3

In the past couple Leadership Memos, I recommended a list of essentials that agile leaders do (read the full article in January Memo for a refresh). I also defined the differences between leadership and management: leadership is a role with leaders leading people while management is a job function managing systems. (read the full article in February Memo). Now I would like to tackle what qualities we should expect in a leader. There are many things that we want leaders to be, but what is the most foundational?

Leaders with power and brains are common. So are leaders with riches and popularity. But a competent leader full of integrity and skill, coupled with sincerity, is rare indeed.  

Deception creates suspicion. Once the leader’s followers suspect motives or find that what is said publicly is denied privately, the thin wire of respect that holds everything in place snaps. Confidence drains away. With each revelation of lies, our respect and confidence in our leader dwindled. So, is there a litmus test for integrity? Yes there is. There are three elements: moral, legal and ethical. Is what the leader did moral? Is it legal? And finally, is it ethical?

The late US President Dwight Eisenhower stated his opinion with dogmatism: “The supreme quality for a leader is unquestionably integrity. Without it, no real success is possible, no matter whether it is a section gang, on a football field, in an army, or in an office. If his associates find him guilty of phoniness, if they find he lacks forthright integrity, he will fail. His teachings and actions must square with each other.”

I can think of few ingredients more foundational to being a good leader than knowing oneself – and accepting oneself – and feeling secure about oneself inside one’s own skin.

“The first great need, therefore, is integrity and high purpose.” – Dwight D. Eisenhower.

Do you agree? What is your experience? Let me know by commenting below. I’d love to hear from you.


Latest Happenings:

  1. Come join me on 12th Mar at 5:30pm Pacific / 13th Mar 9:30am SGT (GMT+8) as I’ll be part of the Liberating Structures Asia Pacific Learning Festival 2021. I’ll be sharing tips and tricks on how to have an engaging meeting, regardless of what kind of meetings they are, regardless of whether people turn on their video cameras or not. I aim to make you fall in love with meetings again. Register here.

2. Do you know I have podcasts on my website? Go check them out! 

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