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Leading with integrity - have we lost the art?

Posted by Steve Read on December 5, 2016

Integrity - the quality that makes people trust you. These were the words of Field Marshal Lord Slim, a military commander both respected and trusted by his troops - the 'forgotten army' of the Burma campaign in WWII. Now integrity is one of the qualities we look for in all our leaders. Integrity, from the Latin integer or wholeness when applied to people is something of significance. Peole with integrity do not deceive themselves or others, they do not manipulate the truth. As Oliver Cromwell put it in a letter to a friend 'subtelty may deceive you, integrity never will'.

 

So what are we to think of leaders today who don't not show us integrity? What do we think of people who are not 'whole'? If they are not whole, there must be something missing. I have quoted Bazx Luhrmann / Mary Schmish before: Accept certain inalienable truths, prices willl rise, polititians will philander...' (http://www.helix-consultancy.com/blog/theyre-at-it-again.../), and I think they are wrong. We shouldn't just accept these as truth. People who take these positions of leadership ned to be better than that. They need to become good leaders , not simply take the position (and title and salary). And there is a growing list of stories that make you question the integrity, judgement and motivation of people in poisitions of responsibility.

 

How far do we go back: Enron, Worldcom and by association Arthur Andersen (whose Country Managing Partner  - Steve Samek said in 1999 'The day Arthur Andersen loses the public's trust is the day we are out of buisiness'), any number of banks and bankers, companies who choose to (perhaps completely lawfully) avoid paying tax where it is due. The question for me is - how do organisations get to this point? Arthur Andersen himself said in 1932 'if the confidence of the public in the integrity of accountancts reports is shaken, their value is gone'. To preserve the integrity of his reports the accountant must insist upon absolute independence of judgement and action. The necessity of preserving this position of independence indicates certain standards of conduct'. The downfall of the Arthur Andersen business in 2002 was as a consequence of the opposite, and regardless of the final legal decision, the damage was done. 

 

Then there are the poitical leaders. Let's start (and finish) with President Elect Donald J Trump. Now I know that opinions vary, but when there is a very long Wikipedia page, with only one request for further citations or verification, (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Legal_affairs_of_Donald_Trump) detailing allegations and lawsuits (rape, assault, voter intimidation, links to organised crime, tactical use of bancruptcy laws, tax returns, destuction of documents and emails (what?!), breach of contract, fraud, construction and property matters (he sued Scotland!), sexual harassment etc) involving Trump and or his companies, then I am pretty certain that we have smoke and fire. And probably few mirrors.

 

We don't have too many good role models in global politics or big business. The leadership quality of integrity seems to be in short supply. And the leadership function (this is all Action Centred Leadership) of 'setting an example' is too often done badly.

 

And so to my next blog, I am going to write about some good leaders and leaders for good. They are out there...

 

Do call us for a chat if you think you might like to support and develop your leaders.

 

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