Great speeches and slogans that articulate a vision may get a Politician elected or a Business Leader appointed to the board, but they will lose support and be cast aside if people perceive a lack of integrity. It is integrity, demonstrated by the behavior of the person behind the title, that is the backbone of the ability to lead. Like the human backbone, integrity supports and provides a common cord connecting all other leadership qualities. Like the human backbone, integrity provides for the range, and limits, of allowable motion for all other leadership functions. Without integrity titles are meaningless words and people, eventually, stop following words. People never stop following leaders.
One of the ironies in life is that people have a hard time describing what it is that makes someone a leader but, they generally can describe what it is that discounts someone from being a leader. Visionary is a word often used to describe a leader and, no doubt, leaders are Visionary. The late Steve Jobs, Founder of Apple, was the epitome of a Visionary. He once said, “people don't know what they want until you show it to them” and he had the vision to create products that revolutionized the consumer electronics market. Great communicators, such as was used to describe the 40th President of the United States, Ronald Reagan, is another phrase associated with leadership. Truly, leaders are skilled communicators who clearly articulate their Vision, build Relationships, and Influence outcomes to make the Vision a reality. Then again, though Hitler was an excellent orator and had a Vision for Germany to rule the world, he was not an excellent leader. Some say Leaders are good Managers and absolutely, a leader must possess the ability to Execute a plan in support of the Vision. Jeff Bezos Vision for Amazon, "Our vision is to be the world's most consumer-centric company, where customers can come to find anything they want to buy online”, has become a reality because he created and executed to a business plan he created while driving to Seattle to start the company. Yet, not all managers are good leaders.
What, then, is missing? Integrity! All these descriptions and traits must be built around a backbone of Integrity. Without regard to title of position, a loss of integrity will cause followers to lose confidence. What is integrity? Integrity is the personal compass that incorruptibly guides the qualities of being trustworthy.
Doubt this? Look at Harvey Weinstein. The founder of Miramax and a leader in the entertainment industry, was brought down because of his lack of integrity as highlighted in the sexual abuse cases. Then there is the example of the President of the United States. I’m not speaking of Ronald Trump but rather the 37th President of the United States, Richard Nixon. His accomplishments as President are overshadowed by his demonstrated lack of integrity. For those too young to recall, President Nixon resigned rather than be impeached for his role in, and subsequent cover-up of, the burglary of the Democratic National Committee.
So, what do President, CEO, Vice President, Manager, and Congresswoman all have in common? They are titles used to describe a leadership position and these titles are more than just words. They carry with them the expectation that the person holding the title not only possesses certain job skills, but that they are experienced and experts in using those skills. They must be knowledgeable in their field, be excellent communicators, negotiators, collaborators, influencers, and be great managers. Nonetheless, these skills are not enough. As J.C. Maxwell wrote in his book, Irrefutable Truths of Leadership “…your knowledge may have gotten you the management job but that does not make you a leader.” Hence, skills are not the backbone of leadership. Integrity is the backbone of leadership. Integrity demonstrated through the behavior of the person behind the title. Without this, a title becomes a meaningless word and people do not follow a word. People follow leaders.
David Hess, PMP
Jan. 08, 2019
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