Photo Courtesy of Adobe StockA lot of people use it as a synonym for honesty. Many others look at it more in terms of follow-through – does a person do what they say they’re going to do. Both meanings are common and closely related. I’ve worked with a lot of CEO’s and leadership teams to identify their core values. I’ve also interviewed hundreds and hundreds of candidates in the hiring process and have consistently asked them what values guide the decisions they make and how they live their lives. Integrity is the one word I hear more than any other from these exercises. There’s rarely a leadership team or an interviewee that leaves it off their list. After all, who wouldn’t want to be known and recognized for this quality? But, the word integrity means much more than just honest or good with follow-through. If we go back to Noah Webster’s 1828 dictionary neither of these words is even mentioned. What is mentioned is:
- wholeness, entireness, unbroken state, and
- the entire, unimpaired state of any thing; sound
Being a Fully Integrated LeaderHenry Cloud went on his book to list six aspects of character that define a person of true integrity. Here are the first three, with my brief explanation. I’ll follow up next week with the other three. 1. The ability to connect authentically. This is about connecting with people at a heart level. You can be a nice person, even a caring person, and still not be able to connect. The popular term today to describe this is “emotional intelligence” (or EQ). Another word might be empathy. It describes a person’s ability to understand how others are feeling and what they are experiencing. In other words, they get it. When people feel understood they are more likely to trust. When people perceive that you care but don’t understand, they won’t feel as though you truly have their best interest in mind, that you have their back. They’ll feel the need to look out for themselves and that creates a barrier in the relationship. Without being able to connect at a heart level, people may like you, but they won’t fully trust you. 2. The ability to be oriented toward the truth. The basic part of this aspect is what we all associate with integrity, which is honesty. The ability to trust what someone is saying is the “cost of entry” in any relationship. Without trust, there is no relationship. But this goes beyond that basic aspect of truth, to something deeper. It’s also about a person’s willingness and ability to see and acknowledge reality. Some people believe only what they want to be true. People of integrated character are willing to see and face even the hard or disappointing realities. For example, there have been many leaders over the years who were unwilling to see and adjust to cultural or technological changes. Think Kodak. Others have been unwilling to listen to managers, peers, or subordinates about their blind spots, winding up losing the majority, if not all, of their influence within the organization. And all-too-many people have ignored family, friends, or coworkers who’ve tried to help them see the self-destructive behaviors in which they were trapped, only to be ruined by them. 3. The ability to work in a way that gets results and finishes well. A lot of people think that working hard is a huge key to success. But there are a lot of people who work hard that fall far short of big, long-term success. That’s because too many people focus on the “what” of the work (the technical or process side) instead of “who” is doing the work. Unfortunately, this has too many components to cover in this one blog post, so I’ll pick my personal favorite. Have a clear grasp on your identity, i.e who you are and who you are not.
Photo Courtesy of Adobe StockBe humble yet confident about what you do well and be just as willing to admit and stay away from what you do not do well. Invest your time, energy, and other resources heavily into your areas of talent, gift, and strength. According to Gallup, it’s important to figure out, and find a way to do, what you do best every day. It’s one of the most important keys to the high levels of competence and fulfillment that will enable you to produce great results on a recurring basis.
Being a person of integrity goes far beyond telling the truth.