Integrity Above all is the Symbol of Leadership

The Spirit of a nation, a family or an organisation is created from the top. The Facile Princeps of leadership is the virtue of integrity. It is through integrity; that leadership is exercised.

The integrity of character sets the example, which is emulated by like-minded.

Integrity is not something one can fool another with. It is possible to hide behind reputation, but people whom you work or relate with will eventually know whether you are or not a person of integrity.

People may forgive you for; incompetence, ignorance, insecurity or bad manners. But they will not forgive or forget a lack of integrity.

This truth which ought to be cherished by all leaders, particularly those who sit at the top of organisations. For the spirit of an organisation is created from the top. If a nation, family or organisation is great, it is so because the top is great. If it, rots, it is because the top is rotten. As the proverb has it, “Trees, die from the top.” No one should ever be appointed any leadership position, at any level of an organisation unless their character serves a model of integrity.

Daily in the headlines, we read stories that raise our eyebrows, about the lack of leadership integrity, in particular on the political scene. We’ve been overly exposed to a perception of self-serving power and influence arising from deep-rooted friendships, not integrity or competence for that matter, together with ethnic allegiance as well as back-room political manipulations, used in an attempt to discard individuals who are perceived as honourable.

However, situations involving the loss of integrity are not only found in the political arena, but they also occur in our business world,  church environment, and more frequently than we would like to admit.

Corruption, in our country, has spread from parliament, down to clerk working in a mortuary. Corruption in leadership pervades at every level. In the words of Ray Davies, “money and corruption are ruining the land, crooked politicians betray the working man…” Unfortunately, our countries leadership are uninterested in dealing with this hindrance of development. Furthermore, the citizens blame the government, the government blame apartheid. Our nation seems to be revolving around “the blame game,” while corruption keeps thriving.

Corruption is everywhere. You may recall the famous collapse of U.S.-based Enron Corp., a leader in energy, natural gas, communications and pulp and paper with more than 20,000 employees, is not far from our memories. The leadership at Enron was found to have systematically engaged in accounting fraud and corruption, which was supported by the Arthur Anderson accounting and consulting firm. Both went bankrupt while key leaders headed to prison. Hurting thousands of people.

While the lack of integrity in leadership is shaking the foundation of nations, government, organisation, families and friendship. While most leaders don’t engage in the dishonest behaviour, I’ve encountered many more individuals who live by what I call the “neutral zone.”  Leadership and neutrality are diametrical.   In other words, while a person may not engage in anything illegal, immoral, or any unethical behaviour, but tolerating those who do, in my view, can be considered unethical. And it only takes one more step to cross the line.  Permissiveness creates a perception of unethical behaviour and also creates a sense of mistrust and a loss of integrity. People simply lose respect for this type of leader! Most leaders simply fail to understand the proximity of comprise.

Most leaders simply fail to understand the close proximity of comprise. Ex-General Colin Powel stated this immortal truth  for anyone leadership;

“Loyalty means giving me your honest opinion, whether you think I’ll like it or not. Disagreement, at this state, stimulates me. But once a decision is made, the debate ends. From that point on, loyalty means executing the decision as if it were your own.”

If speaking against a project you’ve agreed with in the meeting, or making an agreement with one and speaking against it with another, makes you disloyal, what then is Integrity?

What Exactly is Integrity?

  • Integrity is defined as the consistency between what a leader says and what the leader does.
  • It’s an alignment between a person’s values, beliefs, words and actions, as well as the extent to which promises are kept.
  • Integrity is also perceived to be closely related to honesty, trustworthiness and fairness and is frequently thought to be a measure of good moral character.
  • Integrity is judged by how closely the leader’s behaviour and actions are consistent with the moral frameworks of a community or an organisation.
  • Integrity is doing what’s right even if it will cost you.


You May Wonder Why it is Important for Leader to Demonstrate Integrity?

People want a leader who ‘preaches, what he practices.’ Who can follow through on promises and who “walks the talk.” Therefore, since people judge integrity by the consistency, credibility, competency and reliability of a leader’s behaviour, how do we know it when we see it?

When integrity is destroyed, confidence goes by the wayside and may never return.


The Following 9 Descriptors will Assist You to Confirm Your Perceptions of Integrity.

  1. Continuous personal growth: 

  • Leaders with high levels of integrity are in constant learning mode.
  • They are ruthlessly honest with themselves, seek guidance to discover and work around their leadership blind spots and are always learning and growing as leaders.
  1. A promise is a promise: 

  • High-integrity leaders keep their promises, and if they can’t meet the agreed-upon timeline, they will stay in communication with you until the promise has been kept.
  1. Reliability:

  • Just as we purchase proven brands, leaders who are shown to be reliable and can be counted on will attract more followers.
  • Reliable leaders stick with problems and issues until they are resolved from a win/win point of view and a strong consideration for all stakeholders involved.
  • In other words they don’t quit and walk away when times are, though.
  1. Accountability:

  • High-integrity leaders don’t just blame others or take the blame themselves, they own the situation and all of its outcomes.
  • These leaders quickly intervene in an issue, evaluate unintended impact, take steps to rectify the situation and stay in close communication with stakeholders until the job is done.
  1. Responsiveness:

  • There is nothing more frustrating than waiting for a leader to respond to your query.
  • High-integrity leaders are good time managers and will either respond immediately or will inform you when they can get back to your issue.
  • If the situation is a crisis, they will be there for you.
  1. Doing the right thing:

  • High-integrity leaders have strong moral principles.
  • You can count on them do the right thing, at the right time and for all the right reasons.
  • These leaders have high personal standards and hold their team members and their organisation to the same high standards.
  • They then assess each decision and action against their organisational standards.
  1. Respectfulness:

  • Respect is earned and is done so by showing respect and an acceptance toward others.
  • Respecting others means understanding different values and beliefs, recognising, accepting and developing the skills of others and including all employees as part of the team.
  • Respect also means communicating and interacting with individuals by putting them on the same playing field.
  1. Accessibility:

  • High-integrity leaders are physically present and make themselves available and accessible to their staff.
  • They interact with and invite employees to share their issues; they are always available to stop and listen.
  1. Transparency:

  • High-integrity leaders ensure their actions are “seen” as trustworthy and create a sense of certainty rather than uncertainty.
  • They exhibit openness with respect to information, finances and various operational transactions and business dealings.
  • When examined by others, their actions lead to trusting relationships.


Non-integrity leadership behaviour not only has the power to ruin a career, but it has the power to utterly destroy an organisation.

When integrity is destroyed, confidence goes by the wayside and believe me it may never return.

Integrity is the Bottomline!  


*– Source: Why does Leader Integrity Matter to Followers? An Uncertainty Management Explanation, Robert H. Moorman, Creighton University, (US) and Steven Grover, University of Otago, New Zealand, International Journal of Leadership Studies, vol. 5 Issue 2, 2009.



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