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Tuesday, April 24, 2012

How to Lead with Integrity

Are you integrated, dis-integrated or just disinterested?

In some respect we are all leaders. If we lead no one else in life, because of the fact that we are born with free will, we lead ourselves. We also lead our family members, and often lead groups of people at work. Frequently we are unaware of the impact that we have on people’s lives. The most important aspect of our roles as leaders is to be consistent and integrated. What do I mean by integrated?

Do all of your pieces fit together?

Do all of your pieces fit together, or is there some part that is out of joint? Our thoughts, should match our core values, should match what we say and all of this should match our walk. Our walk is simply the way we go through our daily lives. How we act, how we speak, what we speak about, how we do things, what we choose to do…everything. How often have you seen a leader who’s been successful at guiding others by saying one thing and then doing something different? Not very often, right? That just doesn’t work!

People learn a great deal more about us by the way we act then by the words we speak. What is at work in our hearts and minds will eventually show through our actions. When we try to teach principles without also modeling them with the right behavior, those principles will eventually fall by the wayside for those we are trying to instruct, as well as for us. When we are in a positions of authority, whether it is interacting with out teenagers or sitting in the corner office, it is of utmost importance to lead by example if we expect to gain compliance.

What happens when we are dis-integrated?

What happens when we try to teach certain life principles to people, but allow our own actions to demonstrate otherwise? Three things:
  1. Those who we expect compliance from will very quickly grow to resent us, especially if the principles we are teaching are a challenge for them to perform or incorporate into their own behavior.
  2. We run the risk of gaining a negative reputation as an ineffective leader or teacher as we continue to lose sight of the very actions we wished to teach. We lose credibility.
  3. There will be dissension in the ranks. Cases of rebellion will continue to grow as more and more people feel they’re being dictated to rather than being led. From here it continues on a downward slide: defiance, disobedience, resistance, undermining of your authority, and finally mutiny.

Importance of Integrity
  1. People learn to support principles based on results. For example, if you’re teaching honesty, when people see for themselves that you gain the trust of others by being honest, they will likely get on board with the program as they begin to see the benefits of being honest themselves. If on the other hand you are teaching honesty, and you are frequently caught in lies, a totally different lesson emerges.
  2. People actually understand the principles. Just saying principles, or hanging them on the walls of your office, isn’t usually enough. In fact, most people come into situations and jobs with their own ideas of what’s expected of them, which is probably different than ours, based on background and education.
  3. It brings cohesion and cooperation to your team. The whole team is working with the same or similar expectations. When everybody is on the same page, processes, departments and even families run much more smoothly and cohesively.
  4. Respect. When others can see that we are fully complying with the principles we are teaching, we will ultimately gain their respect and trust.

How do we start?

If you think your leadership style is unstable, take a deep breath, stop, reassess.
Write them down. It is a very easy place to begin when we write out our expectations. This will also help to make it clearer to us what we want. You’ve heard it said before that, “knowing is half the battle.” Well, it’s the easiest half. It takes a lot of effort to really walk your talk and practice behaviors that you want others to imitate. But we can get started practicing this positive principle on a daily basis with only a small effort:

Start with the smallest circle of influence you have.
  1. Give yourself the opportunity to impart morals and good belief systems on your immediate family and close friends. Generally speaking, if you can’t get any of these people on board with your program, then outside success seems less likely...Generally speaking.
  2. Tackle the principles one at a time. People will not respond well to a whole new set of rules and behaviors dumped on them all at once. Break it down into manageable and do-able tasks.
  3. Work hard at allowing it to become an integral part of your own everyday life. New habits take time to develop, so we must be diligent.
  4. Celebrate and reward all successes. Be uplifting when you talk about the wins and the “almost-wins.”
  5. Once you’ve mastered one, and then move on to something else. But remember, it’s vitally important to be able to give testimony to the fact that there is actually greater benefit to adhering to that particular principle than not adhering. There is a certain element of fulfillment when you can show others just what kinds of actions, thoughts and behaviors contribute to a better, more wholesome and less stressful outcome.

Walking the talk, being integrated, having integrity is a lifelong journey, and a full-time commitment. There will be times that we fall below our own expectations and the principles we aspire to uphold. However, what’s important is that we recognize it and take the necessary steps to get back on track as soon as possible!


photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/lumaxart/2137737248/sizes/z/in/photostream/


Tejas said...

Thoughts? Here's my thoughts: more leaders need to hear this. More leaders need to know that if they're "leading" a cause that they don't really believe in, odds are, they're not going to be very effective. This is great stuff. Thanks for sharing!

Martina said...

Thank you Tejas for the affirmation. Our own faith in ourselves and what we are doing is the first thing we must master before we can begin to lead others.

Thanks you again,