Qualities of Leadership Part 3 Honesty and Integrity and Confidence and Courage
This is the third article in a six part series which discusses the Qualities of Leadership. It builds on what was covered previously so if you haven’t read the previous articles, be forewarned.
In this article we will discuss in greater detail the next two of the qualities of leadership: Honesty and Integrity and Confidence and Courage
A Leader Demonstrates Honesty and Integrity
"Lying" may be too strong a term. Actually honesty - or the lack of it - in organizational terms is more subtle. It's how willing a person is to dabble in the grey area. Did you ever hear someone justify a situation by saying - "I didn't lie - you didn't ask me."
Obviously a blatant liar is going to have a hard time motivating and convincing others to respect them. But usually (not always) honesty in the organizational sense is more subtle. It means explaining openly how a mistake occurred and owning it if it's your fault. It means telling someone that you think he/she doesn't have the skill set for the position they're interested in - but could develop them. It means telling your manager that the numbers regarding your productivity have slacked off, and what can be done to improve them. How many times are reports, numbers and opinions massaged and sanitized out of fear upper management will be displeased with reality? Honesty requires sharing information with those around you rather than hoarding it. Honesty is the foundation of one's integrity. With integrity you build trust with those around you. Then personal agendas can be tossed aside for that of the team.
If someone is willing to dabble in the grey areas, to "creatively interpret data," to carefully word status reports in vague, half-truths, to make empty promises to staff, he/she jeopardizes their honesty and integrity.
Honesty, integrity, and genuine respect promote one of the most crucial elements in a healthy work - equity. Everywhere in our lives we seek equity and fairness. Why does it seem certain laws apply to some but not others? How about taxes? How many times have you seen someone get the job for all the wrong reasons? Why is it when profits plunge, executives get a raise, while the worker bees get laid off? If history has taught us anything, it is part of human nature to resist inequity.
Here are a few Leadership Behaviors which demonstrate Honesty and Integrity.
1. A Leader openly admits mistakes and failures so they can be rectified.
2. A Leader does not claim credit for accomplishments that he/she was not directly involved in.
3. A Leader maintains the highest ethical standards when dealing with customers and suppliers or vendors.
4. A Leader will keep promises or at least offer an explanation why they can't be kept (promises to co-workers, management, customers, etc.)
5. A Leader does not manipulate data or information for personal gain or protection.
A Leader has Confidence and Courage
Confidence is contagious. It's also rare. Especially in large organizations where things become paralyzed in decision making because there are so many layers and levels of approval - it's refreshing for someone to step out of bounds once in awhile.
A leader is the first to believe in his/her abilities. If they have doubts, those around them are sure to see it in their actions, in their words and in their demeanor. Having confidence and courage doesn't mean an employee or manager has to swing in on a chandelier, sword drawn, and scarf waving in the wind. Sometimes it's in what they don't do. They can say "no" when unreasonable requests are made of them or their team. By trying to appease everyone a leader knows they can lose the confidence of others. They may not conform to "the way we've always done things." In fact, a leader has to be secure enough in his/her convictions to advocate new directions even if the short-term response is rejection or ridicule
Leaders understand that failure represents opportunity - opportunity to learn and to take a step closer to the solution. Rather than roll over and play dead, leaders just try harder. Leaders also have to rely on their courage when there is no one else to turn to. When times get tough everyone can turn to the leader and vent. But who does the leader turn to? He or she turns to that flame inside them, that intrinsic drive to try no matter what. If he/she panics - followers will lose faith. In times of true challenge it is the leader's confidence that inspires others.
Consider also the more overt signs of confidence. This may sound a bit primal but we respond to physical queues the same way animals do. A wolf, in the presence of the pack leader, will hunch its back, bow its head and avoid eye contact. At the most blatant level a servant wolf will lie on its back, fully exposed, as a sign that it is submissive and loyal to the pack leader (If you try that one with your boss, call us, we'd be curious to know the outcome). The point is how you carry yourself conveys a message to those around you. Whether you are confident in stature and voice, if you maintain eye contact, or even how you lean into or away from conversation sends important messages regarding your confidence. Leaders have the attitude "That which doesn't kill me...only makes me stronger..." Believe it.
Here are a few Leadership Behaviors which demonstrate Confidence and Courage.
1. A leader speaks openly and honestly to co-workers, management, and customers even when the message is negative.
2. A leader helps others accomplish tasks rather than micromanage or interfere with their work.
3. A leader attempts new ventures that will improve the company/department performance even if those ventures are untried or unproven.
4. A leader places his/her personal reputation on the line for challenging deliverables because he/she believes they are attainable.
5. A leader maintains a calm, professional demeanor under times of stress and "crunch" times.
6. A leader speaks with a confident in tone. Avoids passive words and phrases such as "try" "maybe" "sort of" and is comfortable and convincing when speaking to groups.
If you have the time, why not move on to our next article “Qualities of Leadership: Influential and Decisive”.
Ray Miller is Managing Partner of The Training Bank, a Training and Consulting firm specializing in Customer Focus, Service Improvement, Leadership and fully customized training solutions. He is also co-author of the book That’s Customer Focus.
You can get more information about The Training Bank and That’s Customer Focus by visiting www.thatscustomerfocus.com or