What is integrity? How do we define it? How do we practice it? How do you spot when you might be suffering from an integrity outage in places where we might struggle?
Integrity is, from a leadership competency perspective, critical. It's about your vision and your values. Getting clear on what those are is the first step to having a strong sense of purpose. Integrity is also meeting your commitments and dealing honestly and fairly in situations. This can be tricky and what I've seen working with women over the years is that we have the tendency to please and be perfect. That’s a challenge that we need to overcome.
Here are some ideas around practicing integrity:
Determine your values: Write out your values, pick three to five, no more than that. What are they? What do you stand for? Think about whether you are willing to stand for these things even if it might cost you and even when others are not? What does it look like to practice your values? We've been brought up to believe in a singular definition of success and only stand for values that align with that model. We are discouraged from standing up for things that are outside of the box.
Be trustworthy: The “Anatomy of Trust” by Brene Brown is a great discussion of trust. One of the things that I think is important for women especially is that we must be able to keep our confidences. People are going to come to you and talk to you about things, especially when you're in a leadership position. Not sharing confidential information is a big component of trust. No gossiping and no talking about others when they are not present.
Walk your talk: Once you know what you believe in and what your values are, you must assess how much you believe in them. How much are you practicing your values? What does it look like for you to practice your values out loud with other people in the room? If you're not sure, you can't really assess whether you’re walking your talk.
Be comfortable with admitting you’re wrong: Sometimes we struggle with this because we've all been conditioned to believe that admitting we make mistakes and being wrong is a failure. We've also been conditioned to believe that being right is how you get ahead and how you succeed. That is not necessarily true, admitting that you are wrong is a vulnerable act. Let go of the need to be right and be open to being wrong.
Demonstrate you can be counted on to meet your commitments: This is a slippery and challenging slope. We have so many commitments that we make on a day-to-day basis, and women who tend to be high on the people-pleasing side of things can over-commit. They say yes to everything that comes their way and they continue to get asked to do a lot of things because of their tendency to please. It’s important that you follow through on your commitments, so don't spread yourself too thin.
Be a good role model for the values that you hold near and dear: It’s interesting for me to watch the transformation that women go through, which always comes down to “What is it that you stand for? What do you believe in?” When they are done feeling stuck and start standing up for what they believe in, other people will notice this transformation. There's this light that comes around women who are standing in their integrity that other people become drawn to. It's not an easy transition, but it's worth it.
Acknowledge the work of other people: I think that women and leaders in general whom have high integrity, don't take credit for other people's work. I hear of bosses taking credit for another person’s work, or a colleague taking credit. That’s not high integrity. High integrity is acknowledging the work of others, especially when they are not present. It’s so important that you let others know who is responsible for that work and not take the credit for yourself, even if you are the leader of the team.
Communicate and use your voice: You cannot lead with integrity if you cannot communicate and use your voice. That is where integrity becomes action. This is about saying what you really think and feel and standing up for what you believe in. It's about providing feedback, letting people know what's going on, not shying away from tough and difficult conversations. You need to be able to give feedback to people on where they are struggling, but ensure that you are also giving positive feedback and are letting people know where they're doing well.
Belief in conviction: Conviction is waking up every day and leading from a place where you are standing up for what you believe in, and others know what you stand for. They know that you will be the same version of you from conversation to conversation and from room to room. Your word is your bond.
Demonstrate empathy and compassion: You cannot have high integrity without having empathy and compassion for others. You can't have high integrity without a heart. Leading from integrity really is leading from the heart.
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