As a leader, you are faced with a number of decisions and opportunities. Some of them are time management issues, others are ethical issues. It could be how you choose to respond and/or communicate with other leaders, those you’re leading or those leading you. You are presented with the chance to implement changes. It could be a unique time when you can actually drive strategy, depending on your role or position or level of influence.

I want to point out one thing that touches every single one of these possibilities afforded to most leaders. Something that can build or destroy your leadership. It is a matter of fact that transcends culture, nationality, industry and geographical boundaries. Every leader will always have regular opportunities to exchange their integrity for bad decisions.

Many can, and most likely will, argue the point “What exactly constitute bad?” The generic answer is “It depends”. The reality is defining bad isn’t nearly as important as is defining integrity. Integrity is an adherence to principles and values. The quality of your values and principles determines the quality of your integrity. The quality of your integrity determines what constitutes bad. The lower your level of integrity, the higher your tolerance for what many may consider bad.

Leading isn’t always easy. In fact it’s more often difficult than not. There are competing opinions and preferences based on some sense of self-serving or perceived self-preservation. If you’re not able to rise above the noise and rest on your integrity, then you stand a greater risk of exchanging your integrity for a bad decision.

Here are some tips to maintain your integrity in the face of adversity and challenges.

  1. Know your values – If you haven’t taken the time to consciously know what your values are, they always stand the risk of being compromised. If you need to write them down and read them aloud every day until they become the default setting for your conversation, then do so. If you’re not painfully aware of your values, they can’t exactly guide your decisions.
  2. Understand any gaps – As much as we would all like, our values may not align 100% with other people. The big challenge is when our values, and the values of the organization, aren’t aligned. Nothing says they have to be 100% aligned, but you DO need to be aware of these gaps and have a predetermined approach to dealing with this gap BEFORE the situation arises.
  3. Be flexible – Don’t try and be a values evangelist to everyone. In the same way you don’t want some other jerk shoving their values down your throat, don’t make it a priority to get everyone to adopt your values just because it makes your life easier. I’m pretty sure your values now are somewhat different than what they were 20 years ago. Give yourself room to evolve, grow and mature. Your values will reflect that process. Give others the same consideration!
  4. Know when to compromise – Compromising on the expression of something doesn’t mean you are abandoning your values. Nothing says that you have to do something that explicitly violates your values. If you find yourself in that position, share it with others and ask how you can contribute in a way that doesn’t put you in a position to ignore your values. This isn’t simply plausible deniability for the sake of tolerating unethical or illegal behavior. It’s being authentic to your values without dictating the behavior of others.
  5. Be happy – If you truly believe in your values, don’t act like some sourpuss when you try to stick to them. Be joyful in maintaining your integrity. Even if people don’t share the exact same values, they are more likely to respect you for clinging to yours if you do it with a smile and light heart instead of a scowl and heavy hand.
How have you allowed your integrity to guide your decisions?
  • Good leaders know where their integrity lies and the line that they will not cross. Even those that have not been tested routinely probably have some idea where that line starts. The tough task comes, like in #4 above, when the situation calls for some level of compromise. Not being willing to compromise may actually be contrary to what your true level if integrity calls for. There is usually always room for compromise just as there is always room for integrity—those without integrity will not understand.

    Howard

  • Hi Howard. Discovering the boundaries of your integrity is definitely a journey. I love your point of how within integrity, there is usually room for compromise in some capacity. Great point! Thanks for your contribution.