Leadership in the Workplace: The Importance of Integrity
Okay, so it’s time to re-engage your management team and provide them some refresher training on leadership in the workplace, and you’ve been asked to research and bring in the latest and greatest leadership training materials. Hopefully, you will find some new insights or perspectives on the roles of workplace leadership and on what makes a good leader. As an HR professional, I too have been tasked with this assignment.
But searching for leadership training material can be a little overwhelming. Where do you start and even if you find something, how do you know it is a good fit for your company’s culture and management team? Before you spend too much time looking for leadership resources and materials, why not start at the foundation and ask the question, “Does my management team understand the foundational aspects of good leadership? Do they realize that good leadership is only as good as the foundation it is built upon?” Maybe it is time for a refresher that reminds your leaders of the importance of having a solid foundation built on core leadership values, especially integrity.
Leadership and Ethics in the Workplace – The Importance of Core Values
Core values are defined as those things which we believe are the most important aspects of who we are and how we treat others. In workplace leadership, our core beliefs about people and how we treat them will impact how we manage them day-to-day. Employee leadership styles can be different, yet effective, because the leader’s core values are solid. Effective leaders know that people need something fundamental from their boss in order to perform at their peak.
Interestingly enough, core leadership values are not always expressed outwardly. In fact, leaders that go around saying, “I value integrity” all the time can be suspect to this very statement. Effective core values are working behind the scenes. Like an operating system on a computer. You know it’s working because the software applications are working. Core values are also like the foundation of a building. And like a building, our leadership ability is only as good as the foundation it is built upon.
Every leader should ask themselves the questions, “What are my core values? What kind of leadership values will create the most productive work environment where people will perform their best? What fundamental leadership beliefs do I have about people that affect how I treat them and how I manage them?” Without a good understanding of our core values, we will be less than effective leaders doomed to suffer from mediocre leadership ability.
The Benefits of Integrity
So, what do we do? Well let’s start by determining what our core value is and what it ought to be to promote positive leadership in the workplace.
When you study great leaders, and you can probably list your favorites, you see one consistent character in each of them – integrity. Integrity is the stable force behind countless leadership role models. Great leaders model integrity by being honest and doing what is right no matter the circumstances. Integrity requires you to make the right choice, even when you may not receive personal gain from the outcome, and to put your own personal agenda aside for the greater good of the organization and the people.
Effective leaders know that people need a leader who has integrity. Without it, people are missing a vital ingredient in their ability to perform. Much like the foundation of a building, integrity is essential for lasting success and provides a work environment with three key qualities: stability, safety and reference.
People who see their boss as honest and having a strong commitment to doing the right thing are assured that they work in an environment of stability. They know that their boss’ integrity will not be shaken when tough decisions need to be made. Their boss will “stick up” for their employees and support them. They will treat people fairly and will be more willing to share information with their employee that is necessary for them to do their jobs. Conversely, a leader who is not upfront with people and hides behind their own deceit for their own self-protective purposes will create an environment of fear, uncertainty and an atmosphere of “everyone for themselves!” These sorts of leaders are more prone to play favorites or other political games and leave their team to figure out the rules of engagement – all distractions to performance and productivity.
Leaders with a strong foundation of integrity make it safe for their employees to perform at their peak. Leadership integrity gives people a sense of empowerment. A good leader knows that there is safety in providing people with the freedom to be open and honest. People know that there will not be retribution for their ideas and opinions. A good leader knows how to allow people this freedom while, at the same time, ensuring that it is done respectfully and appropriately. People that feel safe will perform better than people who do not feel safe. It is also the best ingredient for instilling an environment of innovation. How many times have we heard of an innovation that not only transformed a business, but the whole industry? Good leaders know that ensuring an environment of safety encourages innovation. And with innovation comes transformation.
Just like in a building, a leader’s integrity forms a baseline that serves as a reference or measure. A leader with a strong foundation of integrity is a guiding light to those around them. Employees tend to emulate what their boss does. In a high performing environment, leaders with integrity are the role models for others to see and follow and form the standards for how others ought to behave.
Choosing to Lead with Integrity in the Workplace
So, a good question to ask yourself and your leadership team is, “How much do we value integrity and how are we demonstrating it?” It may not need to be said, but don’t you think we have seen too many examples of leaders in our business world who lack integrity? Isn’t it obvious the negative impact those leaders have on their people and their business?
If leadership is only as good as the foundation it is built upon, a leader must have a foundation that is as steady as a rock. Having integrity in our workplace leadership gives us this foundation. And with this foundation of integrity, a leader is ready to build their unique leadership style.
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