Not so long ago, in a rather large meeting, a planning committee was deciding on a format for the audience Q&A portion of the event. The committee was divided about whether or not to open the floor for questions given the size of the audience and the sensitivity around the topics presented. Discussion progressed, and then one of the senior collaboration partners suggested “Why don’t we plant questions, and just pretend like they were from the audience?” The room fell silent. “Nobody would know besides us!” she chimed. What she didn’t realize was, in that moment, everything she said in past planning meetings; every promise made and report given fell into question. In an instant, the big question (in everyone’s minds) was not how to handle the Q&A, but “Can I trust you anymore?”
In just one sentence, she revealed that she lacked integrity.
Betsy Sobiech, a leadership expert with Tiara International LLC, explains that integrity is an essential element of leadership. Credible leaders are who they appear to be. “A tree is a tree, from its roots to its leaves. There is nothing else – no duck quacking in the middle of the tree trunk. Just tree.” And a tree you can trust. The reality is that in robust relationships, we don’t trust people because we believe that they are honest or because we think they ‘tell the truth.’ We trust based on whether or not we perceive that someone or something has integrity. Integrity inspires trust.
In my leadership coaching practice, I am regularly confronted with the question “What is the difference between honesty and integrity?” The answer is, time. Honesty takes courage in a moment, but integrity requires character, a character built from a commitment to making sure that things are as they seem. The Speed of Trust by Steven M.R. Covey identifies integrity as the first of Four Cores of Credibility™ and sites that integrity requires honesty, congruency, humility and courage.
Personal integrity is established moment by moment, action by action. There are plenty of honest people that lack integrity – this quiz helps illuminate your relative personal integrity strengths and weaknesses. Strong leaders demonstrate integrity by consistently ‘showing up.’ How they look, what they say, and how they behave is consistently in alignment with their values.