Retired attorney and ethics professor Michael Josephson once wrote:
“Great leaders are principled; they are not merely effective, they are ethical. They adhere to moral principles in forming their objectives and using the methods of influence. They engender trust and credibility because of their integrity and loyalty and because they care about their followers and treat them with respect.”
I agree completely. I also believe integrity is not just a personal virtue that leaders should exemplify—they must also hold those they lead, and their entire organization, to a standard of high integrity.
In their book Leading to Ethics, authors Eric Harvey, Andy Smith, and Paul Sims write, “High-integrity workplaces don’t get that way by accident, coincidence, or luck. They’re molded, shaped, and built by leaders at all levels.”
So how do inspirational leaders mold, shape, and build a high-integrity workforce? It starts with holding integrity in high esteem. By this I mean that leaders should continually emphasize and reinforce the importance of integrity through small gestures and everyday reminders, such as:
- Being transparent and honest, even about bad news.
- Commending a direct report for admitting his mistake and owning a problem instead of making excuses.
- Consistently following through on commitments—no matter how small—and thanking others for doing the same.
- Not letting too many small infractions slide, kindly but firmly reminding workers to be on time and focus on work while at work.
- Insisting on honesty and fairness in all dealings—with colleagues and customers alike.
- Frequently reviewing company policies to ensure daily activities and actions are in alignment with those policy statements.
What would you add to this list? How do you promote integrity—personally, professionally, and organizationally?