“The supreme quality for leadership is unquestionably integrity. Without it, no real success is possible, no matter whether it is on a section gang, a football field, in an army, or in an office.” Dwight D. Eisenhower.
We are all called upon to lead at certain times. We lead in our families, we lead civic organizations, and we lead at work.
No matter what office or station one holds in an organization, there are times when they must lead. Although those at the top of organizations are most often called upon to lead, everyone at times have opportunities to do so. Often, those at the top of an organization are unable to effectively lead because real leadership does not come from an office or title, it comes from within us. Actually, it comes from what we do and say.
Though there are many attributes that enable people to lead others effectively, none is more important than integrity, competence, and trust.
There is a fundamental integrity based formula for leadership that is essential if one is going to effectively lead others. That formula is Integrity + Competence > Trust > Influence > Inspiration = Leadership. That is, integrity and competence build trust, trust creates influence, influence inspires, and through influence and inspiration, a leader is effective.
A leader must have integrity to gain the trust and faith of those he wishes to lead. That integrity, when combined with competence, leads to trust – it causes others to trust the leader who has those qualities. People will not trust someone without integrity and they won’t trust someone who is not competent.
Trust allows the leader to influence others, and if you have influence, you can inspire others to do what needs to be done – this is the basis for all successful leaders.
“Integrity is doing the right thing, even when no one is watching.” C. S. Lewis
The essential attribute of the effective leader is integrity. Having integrity means being genuine. It means you mean what you say. It means you are honest. It means to walk your talk. One’s actions must be completely aligned with one’s words. When others see this alignment it inspires trust. A lack of integrity causes others to mistrust and to doubt us.
Building our integrity is a daily task. It means we must have a clear vision for what we want to achieve and how we want to achieve it. It requires us to be honest with ourselves and at all times with others.
The hallmarks of integrity include:
- Honesty: speak the truth or do not speak at all.
- Transparency: disclose everything that others have a right to know or a reasonable expectation to know.
- Be ethical: ethical standards of conduct should guide you.
- Care about others: show that you care about others by genuinely listening to them and really considering their ideas.
- Be true to yourself: do not mimic others; be your true self; get comfortable with who you are and be genuine
- Loyalty: be loyal to those who lead you and to those you lead; do not gossip.
- Give recognition where it is due: do not brag about your accomplishments; give recognition to the success of others.
- Be Charitable: help others who need your help. It is alright to be inspired and taught by others, but follow your own inner voice.
Competence also inspires trust. People are naturally influenced by competence. They respect it. When a leader’s actions and words are perceived as competent they are trusted more.
Competence means knowing what you are talking about. It comes from experience and study. It requires a process of continual learning. It arises when someone continuously sharpens their skills. When your actions are well done and produce genuine results, people are naturally impressed and will listen with confidence. When others are motivated to listen to a leader with confidence, trust is built and the leader becomes more effective.
Others will trust us only if we give them ample reason to do so. People are naturally skeptical and expect a leader to prove themselves. They want to have a good reason to trust a leader. If they perceive that a leader has genuine integrity and competence they will begin to trust that leader.
Trust is very fickle. It takes a tremendous sustained effort to build and it can be destroyed by a single act or word. It requires consistent integrity and competence to sustain. However, once trust is established, it enables the leader to have tremendous influence over those who trust him.
Influence and Inspiration
Once trust is established, the leader can influence others. The leader can influence others to adopt a common vision and work towards it. Influence is only the first step in effectively leading others. Effective leadership is about leverage – it’s about influencing others in such a way that they will apply their own creativity and thinking to problems, to solve them in a way that is aligned with the common vision.
This leverage means that a leader is not limited to his own knowledge and insight of solving problems or pursuing a vision. It unleashes the combined creativity and knowledge of all of those who follow the leader’s influence to achieve far more than the leader can possibly do himself.
It is this ability to inspire others to do more than the leader could ever imagine on his own that translates into the most effective leadership. The most effective leader is not the micro-manager. Most organizations are too big and too complex to be directed exclusively by one person’s ability, creativity, and knowledge. It requires the combined abilities of many people.
Effective leaders unleash that collective ability, creativity, and knowledge in a manner that is aligned with a common vision to achieve far more than any individual can achieve alone.
Anyone who wishes to be a truly effective leader must constantly work on these attributes: they must act with consistent integrity, maintain their competence, and gain trust.