Intentionally developing deep personal integrity is the key to leadership longevity.
You can’t phoney forever. At some point in time your internal compass will redirect you or your external community will reshape you. You can’t be someone you’re not over a long period of time. Period.
The genesis of this thought comes from this podcast where Carey Nieuwhof interviews marketing expert Kevin B Jennings. In that conversation Kevin reflected on his work with global brands including Oprah Winfrey and Tony Robbins. He energetically reflected that you can’t be this consistent as a person and this engaged in your work for this length of time and be a fake. Kevin professionally reflects on his experiences by concluding that there is a sincerity about the work they do and the way they do it, and it shows up in longevity. You can’t sustain being one thing in private and all together another in public. You can’t phoney forever.
Developing deep personal integrity is the key to leadership longevity.
Integrity is being the same person on the inside and the outside. It comes from the Latin origin integer, mixed with French, early English and more Latin (integritas) to become INTEGRITY in late Middle English. Henry Cloud in his book of the same name defines it as “being whole, integrated and complete,” and skilfully places the cultivation of integrity right in the middle of doing life and leadership well.
Integrity is not:
- Perfection – We all get it wrong from time to time.
- External – It’s an internal possession expressed by external behaviour.
- Easy – Life, leadership, and time all make the diligent pursuit of integrity important. Sometimes it hurts.
- Optional – In order to live fully expressed and fully alive, you must be fully integrated.
Henry Cloud’s frame around the process of developing integrity is made both human and accessible by this,
“All of us can grow in the kinds of real character that bring about fruitful relationships, achievement of purpose, mission, and goals. Integrity is not something that you either have or don’t, but instead is an exciting growth path that all of us can engage in and enjoy. All of us have issues in our character that are great opportunities for growth and development. You are not bad or inadequate because of the areas in your character where you need improvement. You are human. Embrace it, accept it, and move forward in the journey.”
Integrity is embraced by two big ideas. As a foundation there is the personal commitment to change. We have the privilege, as leaders, of growing, adapting, and learning. The second big idea is the purposeful use of time. We can all be intentionally focused on reflection, learning, and reshaping who we are from the inside out.
The three ingredients to integrity are humility, authenticity and vulnerability. These are a leaders superpower. My view is that these, as stand alone concepts, are not enough to blanket over leadership development. They need to be a particular kind of humility, authenticity and vulnerability.
- Our humility needs to be honest – the right message to/from the right people, in the right way, at the right time.
- Our authenticity needs to be consistent – being the same in private and public, at home, and work.
- Our vulnerability needs to be wise – appropriate to our listeners and the environment and our responsibility.
Leaders, when we are real we possess honest humility and consistent authenticity. We are safe when we possess consistent authenticity and wise vulnerability, and we are approachable when we possess wise vulnerability and honest humility.
Real, safe, and approachable. This is the leader I aspire to be. Will you join me please?