[December 04, 2013] If there is but one characteristic of senior executive leaders that stands above all others, it is the possession of unquestionable integrity. Without it, all the other key leader traits will amount to nothing at all.
“The supreme quality for leadership is unquestionably integrity. Without it, no real success is possible, no matter whether it is on a section gang, a football field, in an army, or in an office.” – Dwight David Eisenhower
Any discussion about leadership will habitually include integrity as an important leader trait, and rightly so. Integrity and leadership are discussed together frequently because, candidly, they are inseparable as “two peas in a pod.”
One thing about integrity not frequently discussed in open conversation is that integrity is no short-term or easy trait to hold. It takes consistent honorable service over many years, and because it is hard to do, it requires tremendous moral courage to sustain.
How senior leaders differ from other, junior leaders, are that the former’s behavior is both more closely and frequently scrutinized and held to rigidly high standards. The possession of integrity, then, is much more difficult to sustain as a leader moves upward in an organization – as they will be tested often and rigorously.
Any senior leader knows this and those more competent will welcome the continued testing of their character. They fundamentally understand that the secret to maintaining the necessary moral fiber of leadership requires a mental workout. When a leader is not tested, their character weakens.
The crucible of combat is where the most intense testing of leadership occurs. Integrity is a trait that is central to successful combat leaders and where it is lacking, troops can pay a price with their lives. Combat-proven senior leadership is where integrity stands out the most but all senior leaders must possess it.
In our changing world, integrity will be a more valuable trait than ever before. In the U.S. we see a moral relativism seeping into many leaders. This dangerous trend can be reversed only through strong leadership and a good dose on the disinfectant known as integrity.
Integrity: Steadfast adherence to a strict moral or ethical code. Moral soundness. Honesty. Freedom from corrupting influence or motive—used especially with reference to the fulfillment of contracts, the discharge of agencies, trusts and the like. Uprightness. Rectitude. The quality or condition of being whole or undivided. Completeness.