Do Great Leaders Demonstrate and Live With Integrity?

How important is integrity as a component of the Great Leader’s persona? Is it the component that transforms the individual from a “middling” leader into a great one? Consider this …

  • People choose to follow those that they feel they can believe. Few things will destroy the credibility of a leader as quickly as broken promises or outright lies. Great Leaders demonstrate integrity by honoring the commitments that they have made and by telling the truth; always. If the circumstances have changed to the point where a promise can no longer be kept, while the poor leader says “Things change, too bad”, the Great Leader sits down with the recipient of the promise and explains how the situation has changed and why the promise cannot be kept; then, discusses options that might be available to offer a new opportunity or promise that would be an acceptable substitute for the one that has been withdrawn.
  • People look for examples to follow. I once heard of a sales organization where the leader openly proclaimed that the sales reps’ only value was in their sales numbers today. A group of sales reps took that proclamation at face value and “did whatever it took” to become top producers. They were exalted and glorified by the leader. Neither the leader nor anyone else wanted to know how they were doing it; so, it should not have come as a surprise when investigations initiated by consumer complaints found that these reps obtained their high sales numbers through the use of fraudulent and deceptive sales presentations. Poor leaders do not believe that the rules apply to them and that message trickles down through the ranks. Great Leaders know that the rules apply equally to themselves and to their followers. Great Leaders exemplify the behaviors that they want to see in their followers.
  • People want to know if “the little things” are important. The reality is that most people know and understand what the “big rules” are and why they should be followed. They know and understand that it is not OK to kill someone, to rob a bank, to steal a car. But, when they know that their leader is “padding the expense report”, taking tax deductions that are not legitimate, having a secretary tell a caller that “he’s not in right now” when in fact he is sitting right there, it should not be surprising when the followers believe that it is OK to unethically discredit a competitor, cheat on their taxes, and lie to a customer. The Great Leader knows and follows the rules, big and small. The Great Leader knows how important it is to demonstrate adherence to rules, even the ones that seem petty.

There is an old adage that states, “Show me the followers and I’ll show you the leader; show me the leader and I’ll show you the followers”.  This is so true when it comes to the quality of integrity.

Poor leaders cut corners, do what is expedient, bend the truth, and break their promises; and, the members of the teams that they have been given the privilege of leading will, in most cases, do the same.

Great Leaders will live their lives with integrity at the forefront, demonstrating what it looks like and how good it feels to do so. In nearly every case, team members will strive to live up to that example. The team and its leader will be the ultimate winners in the game of life.

Click “Comment” to share how a leader that you have followed has influenced your life.

Tom Hoisington is a speaker, trainer, and author whose goal is to provide leaders and potential leaders with tools that empower them to build teams that are creative and cost effective along with a clearer understanding of how personality types interact within those teams. He can be contacted at