Integrity is a practical, basic building block essential for success. A leader who is committed to integrity promotes everybody’s freedom to contribute their best. This includes the likelihood that there will be a few mistakes on the way to achieving excellence and sustaining a culture of transformation and creativity. And, that’s ok.
Not only do employees respect a leader with integrity, but employees who have integrity themselves are drawn to this kind of leader. Together, leaders and their teams create a culture, and that culture helps determine whether or not goals are met. In fact, culture can greatly influence which goals are set in the first place. The culture of the organization follows the leader and is also influenced by the day-to-day relationships among all the people who contribute their talent, expertise, and energy. Culture drives achievements, and the level of integrity present in the culture enables the type of success that can be achieved. It also determines the kind of people who are drawn to invest their talents in the vision, mission, and goals of the enterprise.
Talented people on the job market compare and contrast different organizations as potential employers. As part of their decision process, they will decide whether an organization keeps its word and treats employees with integrity or whether it is ruthless and not committed to developing any talent beyond that needed to survive the current environment. By choosing to work for an organization, a recruit casts his or her vote. This is the kind of choice organizations present before they ever hire—or develop—people. Organizations that project integrity attract and reward integrity.
Consider how employees (and potential recruits) watch leaders, observing how they treat their colleagues and judging them by what they see. When employees value integrity and see a leader who creates a trusting and supportive culture, they are more likely to contribute freely—even to extend themselves. By contrast, when people encounter a leader who does not exhibit integrity, they often hold back on what they invest in the organization. Instead, they may use their talents to find new positions, and the best talent is often the first to leave. Also, hiring new talent becomes more challenging because the most desirable recruits will be attracted to other workplaces where they perceive leadership’s integrity to be higher. Over time, losing great people and then failing to replace them with great people can cripple any organization.
Instead, leaders can unleash their greatest force for success by consciously demonstrating integrity. In response, stellar people (also of high integrity) begin knocking on the door to join the team, stay long-term, and make a meaningful contribution to the organization during their entire tenure. Leaders who model strong integrity help everybody leverage their imagination and innovation. This creates solid relationships, powerful communication, and genuine inspiration. It also drives a culture where people demonstrate positive behavior even when there is no one around to witness it. People are honest about what’s working and not working in doing their jobs. They offer ideas, and there’s a higher pace and energy level. This results in a workforce that drives bold goals, improved performance, and outstanding results.
Dr. Marta C. Wilson is the CEO of Transformation Systems Inc. (TSI), an executive strategies and management systems engineering firm that helps clients exceed their goals by working in multidisciplinary expert teams and crafting simple solutions to vexing dilemmas. TSI helps clients transform into leaner, faster, smarter and better organizations, so they can expand revenue, reduce costs, and increase profits—while attracting and retaining cutting-edge talent needed to excel in an economy driven by ideas, new technologies and unpredictable global influences. For her commitment to corporate social responsibility, Dr. Wilson was recognized as 2011 Corporate Heroine by March of Dimes and Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association. In 2012, she received the National Jefferson Award for Public Service.
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