Leadership Integrity: Is Integrity A Mandatory Leadership Trait

Leadership and Integrity

Of the numerous motivations behind committed loyal followers, developing loyalty via respect and trust in a leader is the most enduring. If humans believe their leader’s goals are aligned with theirs, if they agree on their why or purpose (see post) and that their leader has the skills, intellect, and character to lead the team to its goals… they will follow. 

To be sure, loyalty to a competent, leader of high integrity isn’t the only way to lead. Despots lead through fear. There are cases of untrustworthy, incompetent leaders… In fact, I can think of one who reached the highest leadership position in the most powerful country in the world. Yet, the most energizing, empowering and lasting leaders lead through trust.

Signs that an organization trusts its leader:

  1. Secrets Stay Secrets – If your organization suffers constant leaks, then there are people in your team that don’t trust, respect, or fear you.
  2. No Backstabbing – People don’t always agree but you’ve created an environment where you can work things out and the team feels safe to air and resolve their grievances in the open.
  3. Low Employee Turnover – The best high-integrity, competent, leaders attract and retain the best employees. They are able to be selective and they create a cohesive culture.
  4. High-Energy – You can walk into the office of a culture built on integrity and trust and feel the energy. We’ve all been in offices where heads hang low and people rush out the door when the whistle blows. Those low-energy offices are likely led by weak leaders of low character.
  5. Focus On Solutions – When things go wrong the best leaders focus on why and not the who. This frees people up to take chances, to stretch, to be innovative without fear of failing.

In Soviet Russia, before the wall fell, there were long lines to buy staples like milk, bread, and eggs. Workers mailed in the minimum effort required to stay out of the gulag. Energy was low. Fear and suspicion high. People followed the Soviet System because if they didn’t, there were dangerous consequences. The Soviets ruled by fear. In fact, one of the leading causes of the fall of the Soviet Union was the inefficiency of leading by fear.

In the Trump White House turnover achieved record highs, backstabbing is standard operating procedure. Unless the protection and aggrandizement of the can be considered an inspiring goal there is no discernable higher purpose. While Making America Great Again was the slogan there are no initiatives that support the jingoism. Leadership, incompetence, and a lack of integrity combined with a demand for absolute loyalty to a leader who will often push loyal followers under the wheels of the bus prior to repeatedly running over victims and backing up. The result, no one of high competence, high-integrity, with no ulterior selfish motive will raise their hand to join the team. Prior to the Trump Administration, working for a President almost assured the rest of your career… in this administration, it is a career death sentence.

Today in Russia the leader Putin leads through fear. Putin is a low integrity, evil despot but unlike his American counterpart, he is competent. People fear him and not the way people fear a drunk driver but in a way, a terrorist fears a seal team six team raid.

Leading through fear, whether incompetent like the Trump administration or competent like the Putin administration is unlikely to survive a long period of time. Hitler, Mussolini, Enron’s Ken Lay and HP’s Carly Fiorina all met their demise before they were ready to retire. It is extremely difficult to lead when you don’t have the trust and true loyalty of your team. Yet movements led by trusted leaders like George Washington, Gandhi and Martin Luther King survive past the death of the leader.

Intentional leadership is all about understanding your purpose, your moral compass, your declared mission and methods and staying true to those principles. Intentional leaders rarely say one thing and do another. Because when your words and your actions aren’t aligned, trust and loyalty are eroded. When you say America First, and constantly deal yourself and others before the country, people notice. Your integrity is eroded. Your days as a leader are numbered.

Do you lead with integrity or intimidation? Are you sure? How do you know? An experienced executive coach could help you create a plan to be an intentional leader who attracts loyal followers. Why not try a no-obligation executive, 1-hour, online, executive coaching session? See if coaching and this coach works for you. Schedule a session now by pressing that little red button down there.