How to Build Leadership Integrity and Why It Is Important

11 min read

When considering the important characteristics of a leader, integrity is always at the top of the list. As Zig Ziglar said, “It is true that integrity alone won’t make you a leader, but without integrity, you will never be one.”

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"It is true that integrity alone won't make you a leader, but without integrity, you will never be one."
Zig Ziglar

But what is integrity? And why is it so important in any leadership role?

What is Integrity?

Integrity is the character trait of being honest, reliable, and true to their word. People of integrity make great leaders because they can be trusted to lead a team and complete any task they are given.

There are five important parts of integrity in leadership. These include being true to their word, owning up to their mistakes, being reliable, following the rules laid out for them, and respecting coworkers and supervisors.

Key Takeaway
Integrous leaders have these five traits.
  • They are true to their word
  • They own their mistakes
  • They are reliable
  • They follow the rules
  • They respect others

Being True to Their Word

Leaders with integrity are true to their word. This means that when a leader with integrity says that they will do something, they will do it. They do not promise results without following through and doing things to the best of their abilities.

As Carl Jung said, “The man who promises everything is sure to fulfill nothing, and everyone who promises too much is in danger of using evil means in order to carry out his promises and is already on the road to perdition.”

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"The man who promises everything is sure to fulfill nothing, and everyone who promises too much is in danger of using evil means in order to carry out his promises and is already on the road to perdition."
Carl Jung

This means that a leader with integrity needs to be aware to not promise more than he can actually carry out. It is more valuable to promise a little bit and be able to deliver than it is to promise too much and not follow through.

Carl Jung also said, “You are what you do, not what you say you’ll do.” A leader with integrity will follow through and do what he says he will do. You can read more about building credibility at work in our article linked here.

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"You are what you do, not what you say you'll do."
Carl Jung

Owning Up to Their Mistakes

Integrous leaders also own up to their mistakes. When this leader, or someone on his team, makes a mistake on a project or in the work environment, he does not try to cover it up or lie to avoid consequences.

He deals with the mistake head-on by reporting it to his supervisor and working to fix the mistake. He does not blame someone else for the mistake that was made to save face or protect his reputation. He takes ownership of the mistake and does everything he can to rectify the situation.

Being Reliable

A big part of being a leader with integrity is also being reliable. This leader will be punctual and present at all meetings. He will follow through with assignments on time, and he will partner with his employees and coworkers when it comes to getting things done.

Some leaders sit back and watch from afar while their teams do all of the grunt work. A leader with integrity will be involved. He will still delegate tasks, but he will check in with his team and work with them to get things done. This leader will not let everyone else do the work that he gets credit for. He will jump in, roll up his sleeves, and work with them.

Following the Rules

Leaders with integrity also follow the rules of their workplace. This means that they adhere to the rules their company or supervisor gives them.

They are honest with their time and make sure they are doing work while they are at work. They respect and value company resources, ensuring that they do not use company resources for things that are not company-related.

These leaders make sure that they are leading their team by example. As Lewis Cass said, “People may doubt what you say, but they will believe what you do.” If the leader expects their team to be at work at eight in the morning, he should be there at eight in the morning as well, if not earlier.

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"People may doubt what you say, but they will believe what you do."
Lewis Cass

If the team is expected to clock out for a lunch break, the leader should do so as well. The employees on the team are looking to their leader for an example of how the company expects its employees to act. A leader with integrity should keep this in mind and make sure that he is always honest with the company’s rules, time, and resources.

A leader’s behavior does affect not only his own reputation but also the reputation of his employer.

Respecting Others

Most importantly, a good, integrous leader treats his coworkers, supervisors, and employees with respect.

No one wants to work for someone who is rude, demeaning, and belittling to others. A leader with integrity does his best to make sure that his employees and coworkers know that they are valued.

Work environments that have leaders with integrity have more satisfied employees. When leaders treat their team with respect, the team is happier and more likely to work to the best of their own abilities.

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"The greatness of a man is not in how much wealth he acquires, but in his integrity and his ability to affect those around him positively."
Bob Marley

It is valuable for a leader to positively affect his environment by uplifting those around him. You can read more about charismatic leadership in our article linked here.

Why is Integrity in Leadership Important?

Having these five traits of integrity in leadership is extremely important for any leader who wants to grow in respect and have a great reputation with his coworkers, supervisors, and employees. When a leader has integrity, those who work with him know that he can be trusted, and the overall morale and productivity of the team are improved.

Key Takeaway
Integrity builds trust. And trust boosts the overall morale and productivity of the team.

How Can I Evaluate Integrity in My Leadership?

Anyone can build integrity in leadership by paying close attention to the five important characteristics listed above. To evaluate one’s own integrity in leadership, ask these questions based on the five characteristics:

  • When those who work for me hear me speak, do they trust that I mean what I say?
  • Do I mean what I say?
  • Do I ever cast the blame for my mistakes on those who work under me?
  • Do I own up to my own mistakes when I make them?
  • When I do make a mistake, do I work to rectify it?
  • Can other people count on me?
  • When I am working on a team, are the other team members glad to be working with me?
  • Am I a leader that rolls up my sleeves and jumps in to work with my team?
  • Do I follow the rules my company has for its employees?
  • Do I respect the company’s time and resources?
  • Do I respect my coworkers, supervisors, and employees?
  • Are my employees happy to work for me?
  • Am I setting a good example for those who work for me and with me?
  • Do I act in ways that build trust with those who work for me?

Reflecting deeply on these fourteen questions can give some insight into one’s own leadership integrity. If some of the answers are not pleasant to think about, it may be time to reevaluate some ways to maintain integrity in leadership.

How Can I Build Integrity in Leadership?

Answering the questions above may reveal that integrity still needs to be built. When building integrity, it is important to keep these five things in mind:

  • Work on improving your reputation.
  • Be consistent.
  • Have expectations for yourself.
  • Honor your commitments.
  • Take responsibility for your actions.

These six things will solve the issues listed in the questions above, and they illustrate what makes a good and integrous leader, as listed by the five categories at the beginning of this article.

Improving Your Reputation

When it comes to leadership, it does matter what other people think of you. Others need to understand your leadership style and know that you mean what you say and that you will work hard with them.

If your reputation needs some work, start small. Work on being positive and not negative. Building a reputation takes time, but tearing down a reputation and getting a bad reputation is fast and easy.

Negativity will influence others to think poorly of you. Positivity, kindness, and hard work are good places to start.

Be Consistent

Your team likes to know what to expect when they arrive for work in the morning. Be consistent in kindness, cheerfulness, hard work, and positivity.

Show up each day to work hard. If you are consistent, your workers will also show up and consistently work hard.

Leading by example with respect and hard work will create employees who do the same.

Have Expectations for Yourself

It is always good to have goals for yourself as a leader. Similar to consistency, having expectations for yourself will lead by example.

Your team will follow your lead and hold themselves to higher expectations, too.

No one is perfect, and perfection is not the standard to hold yourself to, but if you expect yourself to show up on time, work hard, and be a team player, your team will see what you are doing and follow suit.

Honor Your Commitments

Similarly, to the point of being true to your word, having integrity in leadership means honoring your commitments. If you have committed to a project, team, or work-related task, it is important to see it through to completion.

Katrina Mayer said, “Integrity is making sure that the things you say and the things you do are in alignment.” Reliability and honoring commitments are at the very core of integrous leadership.

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"Integrity is making sure that the things you say and the things you do are in alignment."
Katrina Mayer

Take Responsibility for Your Actions

Nicole Guillaume once said, “Everyone makes mistakes, but only a person with integrity owns up to them.” Integrity is such a vital part of leadership because being trustworthy and reliable is the very core of being a leader.

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"Everyone makes mistakes, but only a person with integrity owns up to them."
Nicole Guillaume

Every single person on earth makes mistakes. When a person with integrity makes a mistake, they admit it, own it, and work their very hardest to fix it.

If you make a mistake, whether on a project or in a relationship, own up to it. Confess it to a supervisor or your team, and come up with a plan to fix the mistakes made. Your team will respect you even more for it.

Conclusion

Brian Tracy once said, “The glue that holds all relationships together – including the relationship between the leader and the led – is trust, and trust is based on integrity.”

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"The glue that holds all relationships together – including the relationship between the leader and the led – is trust, and trust is based on integrity."
Brian Tracy

The very basis of integrous leadership is trust. Without it, employees do not know if they can stake their own reputations and livelihoods on you and your company.

To have a successful company and a successful team, there needs to be a successful leader. Successful leaders are integrous leaders - leaders who do make mistakes but who own up to them.

Leaders with integrity respect their coworkers and employees and value the company’s time and resources. These leaders mean what they say and say what they mean.

They are reliable and consistent, and they hold themselves to the same standards they hold their employees to.

Integrity is not only important in the workplace, but it is also important in every other area of life. A leader with integrity will have integrity as a part of his character.

It will permeate every area of his life: not only his work but also his home, his friendships, and more. As Confucious said, “The strength of a nation derives from the integrity of the home.”

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"The strength of a nation derives from the integrity of the home."
Confucious
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