Sometimes people equate integrity with business ethics, and while they are intertwined and connected, integrity is really much bigger than ethics. Ethics tends to be focused on specific situations and how behavior should be governed morally in these events. Ethics are often business and career specific, and what may be considered ethical or unethical for an attorney or a doctor may not be unethical for a business leader or a sales manager.
Integrity, on the other hand, is being true to yourself and your values, beliefs, and morals. It is at the heart of being honest and transparent in what you do and why you do it and retaining this consistency between situations and in working with all people.
Never Compromising on Beliefs and Principles as an Individual
How many times have you sat in a business meeting and heard one message given to the team, only to see the leader doing something completely different when interacting with others either in the workplace or with customers?
When this happens or when lies and untruths are told by those in leadership positions, their integrity is lost. It can happen all at once with one big lie, or it may be a constant chiseling away at their reputation with a lot of little lies, untruths, and distortions.
Being the same in all situations and using your internal moral compass and personal principles eliminates trying to remember how to act or what is acceptable in various situations. This lends credibility to what you say, as those around you know that you are going to follow through without manipulating the situation or equivocating on your principles.
Do The Right Thing At All Times
Sometimes in business, we are provided opportunities to “cheat the system” or to engage in a behavior that is perhaps not explicitly wrong or unethical, but it also not the right thing.
These gray area issues are a slippery slope for the integrity of a leader. If the team sees that gray areas are acceptable to explore and even capitalize on, it undermines your reputation and integrity by giving the wink and nod to this type of activity.
While cutting corners and justifying the end regardless of the means may lead to a temporary benefit or advantage, the knock on your integrity could be long-lasting and significant in your ability to lead.
Be A Person Others Can Count On
It may be old-fashioned to say your word is your bond, but it is still very much a part of how we build relationships and trust. As a leader, your team has to know if you say something will happen, or you can get something done, that you really mean the words you are saying.
Keeping promises is an essential part of building your integrity. It also speaks to your character and principles, as well as your respect and professional commitment to those around you.