Those who find themselves taking up the mantle of leadership would do well to Google “leader scandal” as a sobering reminder. It seems that hardly a day passes when there isn’t another story of a leader brought to their knees because of words, deeds, or deals dragged out from the shadows. These transgressions are then amplified, accelerated, and publicly shredded in the arena of social media.
As a leader, it is scary to contemplate the implications of an embarrassing or crippling scandal. However, it is important to remember that there are countless leaders that do seem to manage their personal and professional lives with integrity – they stand up to scrutiny because they are accountable for their actions. This way of living allows them to preserve their personal reputation, as well as that of their organization.
Leaders who commit to speaking and acting with sound core values and principles in mind rarely find themselves standing in an unwelcome spotlight.
Interestingly, those that fall hardest often compromise their leadership in dozens of small, “off-the-radar” ways before a larger scandal brings them down. They have failed in the daily practice of maintaining discipline, accountability, and transparency.
The challenges of winning back the trust and repairing damage are simply not worth it when it comes to compromising. Here are some tips for leaders who are looking to maintain integrity in both their personal and professional lives:
Minimize secrecy and welcome transparency.
This doesn’t mean you have to put your life on display for the whole world to see. Rather, be open and honest about what’s going on to whatever extent is necessary or possible.
Share your thoughts with those you trust before acting.
Ask yourself questions like “What am I missing?” “What are the unanticipated consequences?” and “How will others perceive my words/actions?”
Accept feedback and be open to learning from others.
As leaders, we must always be working to get better at what we do. A big part of that is being open to hearing from those we lead and work with in order to improve ourselves.
Ensure integrity in decision-making.
Be sure to make decisions in accordance with your organization’s values over and above convenience or short-term gain. Explain decisions and the reasons “why” before inflicting poorly understood policies, practices, or change initiatives on employees.
Pay attention to your processes.
For example, eliminating the impact of bias and nepotism in hiring by developing an objective, criterion-based process that is equally applied in every hiring situation and is defensible when called into question.
Provide timely, honest, and accurate communication.
This can be done by simply answering people’s questions, or telling people when you will get back to them. However, it’s also possible to be honest when you aren’t able to disclose information by explaining why it is not possible at that point in time.
Be a reflective practitioner.
Take the time to honestly and thoroughly review situations where the integrity of the leadership team is called into question, “damage control” is required, or messages are received as insincere or self-serving.
Prioritize relationships and the well-being of employees.
The long-term health of your organization depends on treating people in accordance with your organization’s values.
Have the courage to take ownership.
Apologize when mistakes are made, and commit to learning from them. Also, seek reconciliation and make restitution whenever it’s appropriate or required.
The bottom line is that leaders who commit to speaking and acting with sound core values and principles in mind rarely find themselves standing in an unwelcome spotlight. And when they are called to account, they are prepared to respond and quickly navigate themselves back to solid ground.
What about your current practice needs to change, improve, or be applied with greater consistency so that you can ensure the long-term integrity and effectiveness of your leadership?
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