Leadership writers, Kouzes and Posner state: Credibility is the foundation of leadership. Period.
Stephen Covey says, You a not a product of your environment but of your integrity.
To learn and live out this statement we must learn to live according to predetermined values and principles. Leaders who live according to their environment don’t engender trust or loyalty.
I remember earlier on in my leadership journey when someone wanted to be promoted to a new role that had opened up. I didn’t think they were the best person for the role. But instead of telling them this in an appropriate way, I told them that I didn’t think it was the right fit without going into details. I was trying to spare their feelings. Over and over this person came back, guessing that I wasn’t telling them everything. Bit by bit I told them all of what I was thinking. In the end, they came not to trust my word or respect me.
My credibility was shot with that person, and you can bet they were telling others.
What people don’t tell you is that living a life of credibility means you need two things:
- Character that goes the distance
- Courage that shows up when it is tough
I wish someone had told me early on that leadership is as much about courage as anything else. (Well will talk about this in later blogs).
A definition of character that author and speaker Andy Stanley uses. “Character is the will to do what’s right even when it’s hard.” The other definition I like, coined by Bill Hybels, when he asks the question, “Who are you when no one is looking?”
- Character is who you are. It defines you and guides your actions, hopefully in a positive way.
- Integrity is steadfast adherence to a strict moral or ethical code, being unimpaired, sound, whole and undivided; completeness. Integrity can be summed up simply as doing the right thing for the right reason even when no one is watching
The origin of the word integrity has a word picture, the hull of a ship without cracks. When we are the same, inside as outside, then we have integrity. Most leaders would believe that this is the case for them. I hear leaders tell me, “What you see is what you get”. However, when I ask a few questions I find that they are not aware of their values, much less living them out consistently. What that statement doesn’t take into account is the inner forces that are darker, and less than altruistic and mature.
Character makes trust possible.
People will forgive honest mistakes, but they will find it difficult if someone slips up in an area of character.
Having a strong and mature character as a leader reveals itself through:
- Consistency: Leaders with inner strength can be counted on day after day. They show up regardless of how they feel. They live their lives according to predetermined values and not their feelings. They aren’t inconsistent in how they treat those around them when they are having a bad day. Their consistency in areas of fairness, disappointment and pressure means those around them can rely and trust them.
- Potential: John Morley observed, “No man can climb out beyond the limitations of their own character.” There are many leaders who have shallow character but have charisma, intellect and/or abilities that have accomplished amazing feats. A lack of integrity always catches up with them. Substance wins out. The heights a leader can reach are capped by their determination to be a person of integrity and substance.
- Respect: When you don’t have strength within, you can’t earn respect without. A leader needs respect of those around them to build an enduring leadership legacy. We build respect in lots of different ways. Character is revealed when a leader has the emotional security to reveal their mistakes, putting others interests ahead of their own and staring down fear when making decisions.
If I asked you what your non-negotiable values are, could you?
What values serve you in your life now?
What values are not serving you in your life now?
Have a go today at trying to articulate your top 5 values.