First, a leader must form definitions and applications for the word “integrity”. In order for a leader to have followers, a leader must establish some type of truth. There has to be a basis on which a leader makes decisions. Integrity by definition is “steadfast adherence to a strict ethical code.” (The American Heritage College Dictionary, Third Edition, 1993) To be able to develop as a leader, a process has to be established in order to make decisions with integrity, there must be a strict ethical code.
As Peter Drucker writes in the Practice of Management, “A man might himself know too little, perform poorly, lack judgment and ability, and yet not do damage as a manager. But if he has lack in character and integrity—no matter how knowledgeable, how brilliant, how successful – destroys. He destroys people, the most valuable resource of the enterprise. He destroys spirit. And he destroys performance.”
When developing a process to make decisions with integrity, there are two distinct areas in which a leader must focus.
1. Personal Integrity (family, friends, non-work associates)
2. Integrity at Work (coworkers, employees, managers, executives)
Unfortunately at times, these two worlds collide and this is where people look for the leader to make the hard decisions. The Book of Proverbs by King Solomon has been read by generations as a guide to successful leadership practices. There are two proverbs out of the book that I especially like that express the issue of integrity:
· The man of integrity walks securely, but he who takes crooked paths will be found out. (Prov. 10:9)
· The integrity of the upright guides them, but the unfaithful are destroyed by their duplicity.(Prov 11:3)
Leaders are the most successful when they are walking the path of integrity, and they will see their demise when they select the path of crookedness. This scenario has been played and replayed in organizations around the world. We ask the question, “How do we create an organizational model that can help operate with integrity?” The answer to this question is very simple. Leaders have to exhibit moral leadership. Since organizational decisions are not always black and white, there is a line leaders must draw. When making crucial decisions regarding ethical and legal issues, leaders need certain personal values to give them a guide in making these decisions.