Integrity: A Crucial Foundation for Effective Leadership

Image courtesy of Larry Wentzel on Flickr

Virtually all “leadership experts and gurus,” having studied countless leadership traits, qualities and characteristics as well as having examined countless real-life examples of leadership strengths and weaknesses, come to the conclusion that integrity is one of those foundational leadership qualities that other important traits are built upon.

If an individual lacks integrity – if they lack morality and strong values, then their other skills and abilities will lack long-term effectiveness. No matter how intuitive, persuasive or resourceful someone may be, if they do not have high integrity – if they’re not trustworthy and honorable –- they will ultimately fail as a leader.

Nobody is perfect – even the most upright souls are bound to fail in the area of integrity from time to time – many without even realizing it. However, those leaders who achieve the greatest long-term success are the ones who place great importance on personal and professional integrity.

Some people might argue that many people have achieved success and made millions by swindling their way to the top, by cutting corners, cheating the system, and abusing the innocent. However, that viewpoint depends on how you define success. If you define success as merely a matter of accumulating wealth, power, and status, then yes – the crooked of heart can attain all that. But if you define success as a long-term journey toward personal fulfillment, service, peace and joy, then no, I don’t believe leaders without integrity can achieve true success. defines Integrity as:

1. Adherence to moral and ethical principles; soundness of moral character; honesty

2. The state of being whole, entire, or undiminished

3. A sound, unimpaired, or perfect condition.

With integrity as a foundation, important leadership traits like humility, benevolence, selflessness, empathy, responsiveness, dedication, civility, discernment – and countless others – come more naturally. Perhaps most significant among these traits that develop from integrity is trustworthiness. No degree of intellect or charisma can outweigh the power of trust – a leader whom people trust and respect due to integrity will achieve greater things than a leader who relies on personal intelligence and charm to attract supporters.

Maintaining integrity is much more difficult than it sounds. With integrity as a foundation, leaders make tough decisions based not on changing whims, social factors, or even business realities, but on moral principles – and often lose shortsighted supporters in the process. However, integrity remains one of the most essential leadership characteristics any person can have.

The best leaders I know are all individuals who place great importance and focus on personal and professional integrity. How about you? What kind of emphasis do you place on personal and professional integrity?

I encourage you to carve out time to reflect on the importance of integrity and the role integrity plays in your life and leadership. Also, identify those leaders whom you respect and admire the most… do they possess unconditional integrity? What can you learn from those leaders who do… and from those who don’t?

Integrity: a foundational leadership quality upon which other traits are built.


What do you feel are some positive results of leading with integrity? Or what about negative consequences for attempting to lead without integrity? Leave a comment below!

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I am a leader, speaker, and author who is passionate about Leadership Excellence and Achieiving Greater Success. I am the author of the books Be An Inspirational Leader(2016) and Presidential Leadership (2013), and deliver keynote presentations on those topics and several others.

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