Notes on integrity in leadership or “How much integrity is enough?”

Warning: this article could be disturbing!

Integrity: Not breaking your own rules…

“So I turned myself to face me, but I’ve never caught a glimpse of how the others must see the faker. I’m much too fast to take that test!”

David Bowie: Changes

I must be getting old. I find myself reflecting on my work over the past couple or three decades and I notice some common threads. At the moment I’m revisiting the notion that everything comes down to integrity.

 Integrity (from the latin integer – meaning wholeness) can be defined as “being true to self – in thought, word and deed”; acting according to one’s stated beliefs and principles.

 In much of my work I find that my clients usually know what they could and should be doing, they are simply failing consistently to act in accordance with their own values and stated intentions.

 Often what I end up being engaged to do (not always explicitly) is to be an external source of conscience; to clarify and then remind people of what we believe is important. (wouldn’t it be good sometimes if you could sack your conscience like it was just another consultant :))

 And of course, my biggest struggle in working with them to add value is how to maintain my own integrity and not to weaken and collude. (I am just another consultant after all)

 What’s that you say? “You’re a genius Roger – you’ve cracked the code!” I reckon everyone, at some stage in life, bumps into this notion so there have been millions before me I’m afraid.

 The problem with ‘cracking this code’ as you put it is that doing the work on our own integrity seems to be one of the most unpleasant and disturbing process we might choose to undertake. It’s gut wrenching and probably to be avoided at any cost.

 So if you think it matters, ask yourself: “How is my integrity going? Am I a meticulous keeper of my word? Do I always behave according to my own values or do I sometimes trade them off for something“

Then listen to the excuses you find yourself making. Or is that just me?

I did warn you that this might be disturbing.

How much integrity is enough? Is it OK to hold back or to distort some truth to avoid creating offence or conflict? Is it OK not to do as I say under some circumstances?

What do you think? What’s the cost?