Integrity – Critical For Leadership Success

Many years ago, a great baseball player named Paul Waner was nearing the end of his long career. He entered a ballgame with 2,999 hits — one hit away from the 3,000-hit landmark, which so many hitters want to reach, but for whom relatively few actually do reach.

Waner hit a ball that the outfielder did not handle cleanly, but the official scorer called it a hit, making it Waner’s 3,000th. Waner then sent word to the official scorer that he did not want that questionable hit to be the one that put him over the top. The official scorer reversed himself and called it an error. Later in the game, Paul Waner got a clean hit for number 3,000.

Leaders need integrity in order to function effectively. Integrity is seen as a positive attribute. When it is said that person “has integrity,” it is a compliment, meaning they display honesty and strong character. Integrity derives from the Latin root “integer,” meaning whole or complete, therefore, combining leadership and integrity: leading completely.

But what is the real meaning of integrity? Jack Welsh, in his book Winning, says “Integrity is something of a fuzzy word. People with integrity tell the truth, and they keep their word. They take responsibility for past actions, admit mistakes and fix them. They know the laws of their country, industry and company – both in letter and spirit – and abide by them. They play to win the right way, by the rules.” Paul Waner would have agreed.

Surveys and case studies have identified integrity or honesty as a characteristic that is most desired in a leader. Robert Hogan, founder of Hogan, outlines four critical qualities for an effective leader—at the top of the list is integrity (YouTube: A Discussion with Dr. Hogan: What Is Leadership?). Integrity is a fundamental criterion for leadership. It is imperative that leaders lead with integrity, honesty and values because members of the team want to know that their leader can be trusted. The best way to build employee trust is to maintain integrity.

Every organization needs a CEO with high integrity, the ability to communicate and motivate people and to grow into the job and adapt with changes in the environment. Unquestionably, CEOs are the key to success for organizations, hence the task of recruiting them is one of the most important one for an organization. Selecting the wrong person will cause damage not only to the investors and employees, but the organization as a whole. And unfortunately, a growing number of organizations find themselves having to choose a new CEO in the midst of company havoc.

“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 D. Eisenhower