Leadership integrity check


One day, two golf players had a conversation: “John, why don’t you play golf with Harry anymore?” asked his friend.

John replied: “Would you play golf with a guy who moved the ball with his foot when you weren’t watching?” Johnny asked.

“Well, no,” admitted the friend. “Neither will Harry,” replied John.

Something is off here.

Here is a wise guru expounding his life philosophy articulately while his followers attentively listen:

The guru told his followers, “There are two things in life that matter above all else. Integrity if you’ve made a promise, you carry it out, even if it bankrupts you, cripples you or kills you. The other thing is common sense, like not making that promise.”

Some participants in my Level Up Leadership training programs could not understand why VALUES AND ETHICS and adherence to them are called “critical leadership skills.” And so, I had to explain.

With all the recent news about the terrible earthquakes that have occurred in different parts of the world, the immediate question that comes to mind is whether the building we are staying in can withstand the shakes and the quakes. Another way to say this is: Does this building have “structural integrity?”

Leadership expert Carey Nieuwhof, in his insightful article, “5 Signs You Lack Integrity,” states that integrity becomes more apparent when viewed as the ability to remain intact, much like a well-built structure enduring an earthquake. Integrity is tested in crises, unveiling character strength. Everyday situations don’t assess integrity; in crises, vulnerabilities surface.

Leaders must recognize subtle signs indicating a lack of integrity in leadership. Here are the signs:

1. It’s all about you: A key signal of faltering integrity is a self-centered approach. Leaders who prioritize personal gain over the well-being of their teams and organizations risk causing irreparable damage.

2. Your self-esteem rises and falls with the opinion of others: Leaders who constantly shift with public opinion are not leading; they are merely reacting. True leadership involves having a secure sense of self and guiding others through challenging situations, irrespective of varying opinions.

3. You’re hiding things: Transparency is a cornerstone of integrity. While not every detail needs to be public, keeping secrets indicates an impending fall.

4. You fail to do what you said you were going to do: This is not merely about keeping promises; it extends to keeping one’s word in every aspect. Consistent failure to deliver erodes trust, a critical component of leadership.

5. You make too many compromises: Compromising excessively, whether in decisions or personal principles, compromises effectiveness. Too many compromises lead to compromised leadership.

Blind spots are inherent in everyone. Like any leadership skill, there’s a need to enhance areas that demand improvement.

Here are his recommendations. Recognizing the signs is only the first step; leaders must take intentional actions to strengthen their character.

1. Be ruthlessly honest with yourself: The foundation of integrity lies in honesty. Leaders must confront their flaws and be brutally honest in self-assessment. The lies told to oneself can be the most detrimental.

2. Question your motives: Constantly evaluating one’s motives helps align actions with values. Avoiding justifications for wrong decisions and seeking honest self-reflection is crucial for maintaining integrity.

3. Seek wise counsel: Blind spots are inevitable. Wise counsel from a trusted inner circle provides invaluable perspectives. Feedback from those who believe in your potential helps uncover areas for growth.

4. Be appropriately transparent: Admitting shortcomings and being transparent about struggles builds authenticity. While not every detail must be shared publicly, confiding in someone fosters openness and strengthens one’s resolve.

5. Put yourself first when it comes to personal growth: Contrary to common perception, prioritizing personal development is not selfish. Building a solid spiritual, emotional and relational foundation is essential for leaders to lead and guide others effectively.

One of the most common reasons people in leadership fall from grace and get decimated by scandals that reveal their notoriety is their stubborn belief that they are entitled to be the exception to the rules. This advice, therefore, is sound and practical:

6. Decide to honor God, not please people: Integrity involves a commitment to doing the right thing, even when it’s not popular. Long-term gain often requires enduring short-term pain.

Integrity is a multifaceted quality that goes beyond merely doing the right thing. It involves building a resilient character that can weather crises while remaining intact.

Nieuwhof highlights that integrity goes beyond mere right actions; it involves constructing a character resilient enough to endure crises—a concept also termed “Structural Integrity.”

(Francis Kong’s podcast “Inspiring Excellence” is now available on Spotify, Apple, Google, or other podcast streaming platforms.)

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