"The supreme quality for a leader is unquestionably integrity," exclaimed Dwight D. Eisenhower. "Without it, no real success is possible, no matter whether it is on a section gang, on a football field, in an army, or in an office. If a man's associates find him guilty of phoniness, if they find that he lacks forthright integrity, he will fail. His teachings and actions must agree with each other." Integrity is the manifestation of an unshakeable set of principles – principles that you will not violate under any circumstances.
Currently, I'm reading Coach Wooden's Leadership Game Plan for Success. One reason late Wooden was able to extract an extraordinary effort from his players was that they understand that he was making an even greater effort for them. True, he wasn't experiencing the bruises and muscle strains that the players were experiencing daily on the practice field but he pushed himself to the limit just as he pushed them. He came early, left late and almost never took a day off. All nights he thinks of game strategies and how to improve the team and individuals personally. He was leading with integrity – demonstrating the same commitment he demanded from his players.
Leaders have to impress who and what they are – on the people around them. This means you do what is right. You do what you say. You conform to the values that you expect of others. William D. Lawrence puts it like this: "Integrity is the integration of one's life around his core values." In some sense, your behavior is predictable because you are consistent in your decisions and your actions.
Integrity has a cost. I've learned from my lack of integrity in the past that: You must weigh the depth of your commitment before you undertake to lead with integrity. You will be tested – by cynics, by critics, by those interested more in style and image than in meaning and substance, and even by your own past failures and mistakes. So you need to make sure that you have deep enough reserves to act – consistently – as a person of integrity. People will be watching what you do more than listening to what you say. To be a leader is to lead others. And how should a leader lead? With integrity.
THINK BIG. START SMALL. GO DEEP.