Integrity in Leadership: What Do You Do When No One is Watching?

“Integrity” is a word that we often use, but not many of us can define.  I’ve probably sat through countless discussions about what it means to have integrity; this is the best definition that I’ve heard:

Integrity is our ability to do the right thing when no one is watching.

In one of my management classes, we discussed a scenario about what we would do if we catch a friend/co-worker doing drugs in the bathroom at a company-sponsored event and we are the only two people who knew of this event.  Would you have the integrity to report this incident to the company, even though there was no one else watching?  Would you be able to stand up to your friend?  Would you be able to Integrityaccept the fact that your friend may be fired if you report the incident?

Every day, leaders are faced with tough decisions that may affect the lives of many people.  Regardless of how unpopular the decisions may be or how much pressure there is, we have to understand that the leaders’ job is not to make everyone happy, but to act in the best interest of the collective organization.  We choose our leaders because (1) we believe their actions will reflect positively on the organization, (2) they have the qualifications to achieve the organization’s mission and vision, and (3) they have the ability to do the right thing when no one else is watching.  After all, if our leaders don’t even value integrity, why should we?


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