Integrity comes from the Latin word for integer. Integer means something doesn’t divide easily. It’s a whole. Integrity originally meant purity, completeness, the opposite of hypocrisy. Only recently have we associated it with honesty or trustworthiness, possibly because it’s easy to make promises and present ourselves a particular way in our easy-media culture. Everything we do becomes an input for how others judge us. Since we can be in a number of places at once now with social media and traditional media, we can present ourselves to many more people than ever before.
Integrity exists when our presentation is consistent with our actions.
Character-based leadership is leading from who you are rather than your position or your behaviors. Positional (or power-based) leadership is typified by “because I said so!” thinking. People are supposed to do what they’re told by people in positions of authority or power. Behavior-based leadership equates to manipulation. It assumes followers will do the right thing because the leader is doing the right thing. The focus is on the demonstration. If the leader demonstrates care, employees will engage. It assumes the follower’s actions are the result of the leader’s actions.
Character-based leadership is about a person – more specifically a person doing what’s best for the organization and the people who make up the organization. The leader demonstrates the right things, because of who they are. Going through the motions won’t work over the long haul. Faking behavior to get an outcome from your team isn’t character-based at all. When the chips are down, the real person will show up. We want to join real people acting from the best of who they are.
Character-based leadership rests on a pillar of Integrity. Integrity requires you to be who people think you are. The best character-based leaders are those we join because of who we think they are and where we think they’re going.
When you consider what it means to “be who people think you are” there are only 2 variables that affect the outcome: who you are, and what others think.
You can’t dictate what others think. Much is written and spent to influence what others think. So much, in fact, you would think that manipulating others thoughts about yourself was the more rewarding effort. Either you attempt to manipulate what others think, or you can be who you want them to believe you are.
Integrity addresses the source – who you are. It is the only factor of the two you can control. When we’re honest with ourselves, our “who we are” can be a pretty good person, but that person can also be a selfish jerk. (Yes, we know you better than you think.) Deep down inside there are things we do that even we don’t like. But we can choose to be our best. We can choose to be the kind of person who rejects passivity, accepts responsibility, acts courageously, putting others ahead of (or along side of) themselves.
Where do you spend your time and money and energy? Do you spend it working on your presentation skills or your website? Do you know the right keywords and the search results for the terms people use in your industry? Do you know your click percentage? Can you do an A / B test with a newsletter and see if more people click a different image of your product? Is that where you spend your energy?
Or do you work on who you are? Are you the kind of person I’d respect? Will you do the hard things to make our effort succeed? Will you sacrifice for our team or will you sacrifice the team? Will you make a greater contribution to our shared goal? Will you do the things you ask me to do? Will you admit when you make a mistake? If our effort is going to fail, will it cost me more than it cost you?
Which side of the equation gets your effort? Are you working harder on you, or on what I think of you? And if your leadership influence isn’t what you’d like it to be, I bet that’s because you’re spending your energy trying to manipulate what I think.