What is integrity in leadership and why does it matter?

Integrity in leadership is the basis on which people can trust in your leadership.

Do you do what you say you will do?

Do you keep your promises?

Is your communication transparent and honest?

Do you admit when you don’t know the answer to something?

Do you keep people informed proactively?

Do you own your mistakes?

Do you show up in authenticity?

Are you present with your people?

When you say something, do you mean it?

When you commit to something, do you have intention to pursue that commitment?

“It is true that integrity alone won’t make you a leader, but without integrity you will never be one.” - Zig Ziglar

Why am I asking these questions? It is because over the last few weeks, I have witnessed leadership that is not leadership because it is not in integrity. And the implications of this will be far-reaching.


In particular, what I have witnessed are public statements from a leader about how things work, and then actions that are in contradiction to those public statements. For the members of this leader’s community, which do they believe, the words or the actions? The two are not aligned. They are not in integrity.


I have also seen consultation and collaboration to create decisions in benefit to the whole team. Agreement on the decision has been reached, everyone having a shared understanding of what that agreement and decision is. Then less than 24 hours later, the agreed decision has been ignored and the leader has made a completely independent decision that was not aligned to the collaborative consultative agreement.


Now, I have no problem with a leader making an independent decision. Yet when a ‘leader’ has deliberately developed a decision and agreement with a group of people and everyone has bought into this decision, and it has been confirmed that this will be the decision, then it is overturned unilaterally, I believe this creates problems. Problems of trust, problems of belief, problems of ‘why did you bother’ to consult with us in the first place if you had no intention of following through the agreed decision.


This is not in integrity. It is destructive. Other team members think ‘why waste my time’ in a consultation, getting input, confirming a final decision and approach, and the principles behind the decision, if you were then going to go and do your own thing regardless.


From a group perspective, team members do not know whether you value their input. They do not know, when the leader tells them they have reached an agreed position and an agreed decision, that this is actually going to be followed through. They are unable to trust the leadership because they have been given reason to doubt it. Because there has been a displayed lack of integrity to the leader’s own process in the past.

“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

Another example that I have seen, is agreeing a set of principles about how decisions will be made, and that they apply to all members of the team. Oh, except for one, because that person, that person the leader values differently to everybody else. So this one person is the exception. The rule does not apply to them. Again, this lacks integrity. If a leader and team are going to have agreed principles, they need to apply. Not be selective in their application. The leadership lacks integrity.


And one more example I have observed recently, is when a leader makes a decision purely for their own benefit, knowing the decision will have negative consequences for others. As long as their team is well positioned, they do not care to consider the implications for other teams in the organisation. This is not leadership. It is selfishness. And lacks integrity.


Leadership starts with you. You need to face up to yourself first, if you want to become the best leader you can be.

So, when you look in the mirror and wonder if your leadership has integrity, and whether people can trust in your leadership, these are some of the things to reflect on.


➤ How are you showing up?
➤ How are you following through?
➤ How are your actions supporting your words and your beliefs?
➤ How are you applying your principles and the agreed principles of your group or team?
➤ How do they know that they can trust you?
➤ How do you consider the big picture?
➤ How do you take responsibility?


Because a leader without integrity is not a leader.


I’d love to know your thoughts.

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