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Leadership Competencies - Part 4 (Integrity)

The Relationship Model

Although the responsibilities of those in leadership vary, there are a number of competencies that are common to all of them. In this series of six articles, we shall look at the competencies that are needed in a Chief Executive Officer, Board Chair and Board Member, Senior Manager and Pastor.

Competencies are aspects of a person that make one successful at what one does. They are a complex combination of underlying characteristics, being influenced by that person’s values and beliefs, motives, attitudes, personality traits, self-image and attitudes as well as skills and knowledge.

We can determine a person’s competencies by observing their behaviour. The more effectively and consistently they display the behaviours associated with the respective competencies, the better their leadership performance. A person’s competencies therefore, are a window through which we can glimpse the person’s capability.

Today we look at Integrity.

Integrity – trustworthy and conscientious and can be relied on to act and speak with consistency and honesty.

Leaders should be noted for their truthfulness, consistency and reliability. All responsibilities are fulfilled ethically. Their actions are consistent with their spoken word.

Integrity leads to credibility. Such a person is “real” and authentic rather than appearing distant and unapproachable. Integrity generally leads to a sense of openness and the ability to admit to being “human”, to having faults and failings. Rather than undermining credibility, this vulnerability adds to it. Integrity appears to build upon good self-awareness and an understanding about what personal beliefs, values, principles and thoughts motivate them.

Those with high levels of integrity are likely to be conscientious and disciplined. They want meetings to start on time, have the relevant documents to hand and prepare sufficiently. When declaring expenses, they are consistently accurate and fair.

It is important that integrity is balanced with empathy. The person with high integrity but little empathy is in danger of demanding too high a price of others. Because others do not appear to match up to the exacting standards expected, they may be judged harshly and critically. A balanced perspective is needed.

There is an increasing erosion of integrity throughout public and corporate life as well as in private life. Ethical behaviour can no longer be assumed, even amongst Christians in positions of leadership who claim Christian beliefs, values and standards.

Such an erosion of integrity is evidenced when power is abused, untruths told, secrecy is used to manipulate and information is deliberately withheld. It is seen when credit is taken for another’s work or ideas, additional leave taken, speed limits exceeded, copyright and software infringements made and tax returns falsified. When “everyone” appears to be doing it, the line between right and wrong is increasingly blurred.

Leaders, by virtue of their position, have a large circle of authority. Considerable trust is placed in them and the highest expectations required. There are many who look up to leaders as role models, drawing strength and inspiration from them. When this image is shattered, even by a momentary and uncharacteristic lapse of integrity, the repercussions may be considerable.

It is not fashionable today to question a person’s beliefs and value system. “Anything goes” as long as “walk and talk” are consistent. Most beliefs and actions are tolerated and even acceptable as long as the individual acknowledges and does not attempt to conceal them.

Paradoxically, today’s generation is increasingly unwilling to put up with inconsistency which is perceived as a lack of integrity. It is irrelevant whether the person holds leadership status or not. Somehow integrity has parted company with traditional standards and values and the emphasis is on being honest to oneself rather than maintaining traditionally accepted standards and norms. This is in keeping with the belief that being real and authentic is more acceptable than adhering to one particular set of values or code of conduct.

In a Christian context, leaders with personal integrity consistently act according to Biblical values and are ethical, trustworthy and honest even if it means going against the “tide” and being unpopular. When there is pressure or even threat to conform, they follow their own convictions. Such people are willing to speak openly about themselves, “walk the talk” and do not manipulate others with hidden agendas. Integrity to them means keeping promises and commitments and proving trustworthy in speech and actions.

Les Stahlke, President/CEO
GovernanceMatters.com Inc.