In research on leadership, integrity is consistently rated as one of the most important character traits of a respected leader. Integrity can be defined as making values-based decisions, not decisions based on personal gain.
So if my values are about fairness and I work in a restaurant where we share the tips, but a customer gives me a large tip and tells me to keep it for myself, have I shown integrity when I pocket my special tip without telling my colleagues?
Another way to think of it is, would I behave in the same way if someone were watching me? If you were acting with integrity you’d do the same thing whether or not you were being observed, because you’d believe that it was the right thing to do. Don’t get me wrong, people with integrity aren’t perfect, but they admit their mistakes and do what they can to right their wrongs.
Here are my 5 top tips for developing your integrity:
1. Examine your own morals and ethics
What are your morals and ethics and where do they come from? When was the last time that you went against them, even in a small way and why was that? Have your morals and ethics changed, or does your behaviour need to? e.g. You say that you wouldn’t steal, but whenever you are in the supermarket you try a few grapes before buying a bunch, are you living by your own values and morals?
2. Be a role model of integrity for others
Be consistent, open and clear with your morals and ethics. Encourage those around you to question you and others, especially when you/they don’t appear to be acting with integrity. e.g If a colleague proposes an approach that you think is questionable in regard to your ethics around inclusion, you could say “Tell me about how what you just suggested fits in with our values around inclusion?” This approach is curious and collaborative rather than conflictual.
3. Stand Up for What You Believe in
You’ll always feel better about yourself for standing up for what you believe in. You can do this in a respectful and positive way. Always ask “How could I satisfy my ethics while also accommodating your outcomes?” Aim for a win win, it is possible with some positive and creative thinking.
When integrity is missing from our relationships, our leaders or ourselves, a break down in trust occurs, support disappears and as a result no one achieves their goals.
Aligning our internal values with our external behaviours sounds easy, but putting it into practice can be a challenge.
4. Keep Your Agreements
Keep your word to yourself and others. Every day we make promises, so many that it’s easy to forget them and when we do we jeopardise our relationships. Every small broken promise erodes trust. If you make a commitment, write it down and only cross it off once its done, or let the person know if you can no longer fulfil it.
5. Surround yourself with people of integrity
Choosing the right company will make it easier to keep your integrity. Limit time spent with those who don’t hold your values and ethics and if you are in a position to recruit people, consider how you hire people that have similar morals and ethics to you.