How’s Your Integrity as a Leader? Ask a Watermelon

It’s summertime and you’ve probably sunk your teeth into a ripe, delicious watermelon by now. But you’re probably wondering, what in the world do watermelons have to do with your integrity as a leader? I’m glad you asked. Like me, you’ve probably cut into countless watermelons in your lifetime. And do you know what’s true every time? What’s inside is never a surprise. You may accidentally get a seeded, unripe, or bruised watermelon—but you’ll never slice one in half and find it full of guacamole! If you did, you’d likely post a viral-worthy Instagram video and then hightail it back to the store for a new watermelon. When a leader lacks integrity, it goes against the natural order of things. It’s just way more disappointing and detrimental than a watermelon that’s two treats in one (assuming you’re an avocado fan).

You can ask a watermelon about leadership integrity, but it won’t say much. However, there are three simple yet profound questions that you can ask yourself to strengthen your integrity as a leader.

Does your inside reflect your outside?

Years ago, my good friends invited me out for fine French cuisine. When they gave me the address, my wife and I were shocked. We never dreamed a dingy strip mall could be the epicenter for such rave reviews. The ambiance and meal were outstanding, but we had to keep one eye on our car all night.

When people approach your organization, or you as a leader, they don’t want to wonder: “What’s in your watermelon?” Rather than be pleasantly surprised (like my dining experience) or rudely awakened (like when a website looks amazing but the business is a disaster), they want to know they can trust you through and through. Honestly aligning yourself from the inside-out will strengthen your integrity as a leader.

Are you 100% confident in your core?

You and whatever you lead will never succeed if you don’t get crystal clear about who you are. Why? Because integrity and identity go hand in hand. It’s why Simon Sinek’s book, Start with Why, is foundational to leadership. It’s not enough to know what you do. You have to be 100% confident in your core—why you do what you do, and then how—so that you can lead with conviction and courage.

A leader that’s always wondering, “What’s in my watermelon?” can’t influence others effectively. Where insecurities run rampant, ethics almost always end up on the chopping block. Do some soul work so you can stop second guessing and start strengthening integrity—personally and professionally.

What step will help you become true to yourself as a leader?

You can’t find out if your next watermelon is truly ripe without cutting in and taking a bite. In the same way, strengthening your leadership integrity is an ongoing process that requires complete transparency, vulnerability, and commitment. Some leaders prefer to play it safe; the best leaders are willing to sacrifice themselves for the sake of others.

Start building up your integrity as a leader today with at least one of these five steps.
  1. Ask friends for an integrity audit.
    Don’t sign up for a pricey 360-degree survey. Bribe a few trusted friends and fellow leaders with slices of fresh watermelon, have them read this post, and ask them for candid input.
  2. Revisit your core values.
    Take time alone to assess if you’re on or off-track with what matters most to you. Review your calendar and checkbook to see your true priorities and adjust accordingly.
  3. Eradicate anything unethical.
    You may have different values from other leaders, but taking moral shortcuts will sabotage your leadership integrity every time. Come clean and move forward.
  4. Get support for your insecurities.
    No one expects you to be perfect as a leader, but you! Rather than keep up appearances, note what’s weak and find a course, colleague, or counselor to help.
  5. Become the best watermelon you can be.
    “Fake it ‘til you make it” is terrible advice for strengthening leadership integrity. You’ll get found out faster than a watermelon filled with guacamole! Instead, be honest with yourself about what you love and loathe so you can grow stronger in integrity as a leader every step of the way.
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