INTEGRITY. Colonel Eric Kail, Army field artillery officer and course director of military leadership at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point wrote, “There are two critical components of integrity that go beyond just doing the right thing when no one is looking. The first is the adherence to a moral or ethical principle. This isn’t simple compliance to a rule; it implies a philosophical understanding of the reason it exists. The second is the pursuit of an undiminished state or condition. Everyone makes mistakes, so being a person of integrity does not mean you haven’t committed a moral or ethical violation, ever. It means having the strength of character to learn from those ‘misbehaviors’ and seek continual self-improvement.” (Source http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/guest-insights/post/leadership-character-the-role-of-integrity/2011/04/04/gIQArZL03H_blog.html)


Integrity is the foundation of good leadership. Read the papers and it becomes quickly obvious that those who fall from positions of leadership allowed their integrity to be compromised at some point. I’m sure the first time it was something small, not a big deal. As time progressed it became easier to take a shortcut, take credit for someone else’s work, look the other way or keep silent in the face of something wrong.


LOYALTY. Loyalty is a characteristic most organizations and leaders look for in a person. Having someone who is dedicated and will stick by the leader’s side through thick and thin is important. Loyalty between employee and employer is the glue that holds an organization together in tough times and is the fuel that inspires innovation to stay out in front of the competition.


Many time though loyalty is an abused characteristic by leaders, especially those who have allowed integrity to be compromised in their lives. Demanding loyalty is a sign of a controlling individual whom does not understand that loyalty is something earned and developed. For those who demand they misinterpret loyalty with obedience. Cross that line and relationships quickly fall apart as the person in charges true colors is revealed.


CROSSROADS. When integrity crosses the path of loyalty it is a test of one’s moral fiber. It test the strength of doing what’s right verses going the easy road of not making waves. For some loyalty means being a puppet, looking the other way, following blindly, keeping quiet and never taking a stand. For these people loyalty is just an abbreviation for “my way or the highway” in which the day someone stands for what’s right they will accuse them of not being “team players” or accused of being disloyal.


THOUGHTS. Something to think about is how did those who redefine loyalty into such a perverted self-centered tool of manipulation get to such a place? Was it those little cracks in integrity that eventually turned them into a person who not only makes unethical decisions, but also now expect those who follow to do the same? Perhaps they know that first little compromise they can get a person to follow through with will be the very thing they blackmail with leading to even more deplorable decisions? If they can get someone to look the other way just once, then comes the deterioration. A puppet is created. The process of another fallen leader begins.


DECISIONS. What happens when we are faced with compromising our own convictions in the name of loyalty? What do we do when it’s their way or the highway? How do you handle being a team playing leader yet hold on to your convictions? These are thoughts that hit all of us when our gut is telling us something isn’t right. More so, there are times when it has nothing to do with a gut feeling; it is a blatant wrong being done. The boss is almost daring anyone to say anything and we, the ones who are set to protect the business, the people, the customer and our own reputation are up against either shooting a red flare in the air or cowering down justifying the actions of someone who has only their own interest in mind. Decisions, yes, very hard decisions.


CONSIDERATIONS. Doing what is right is not always the easy road. Taking a stand can mean taking a walk. As leaders it is important to understand that people throughout our career, even those in key leadership positions, will test our willingness to stay the course. It is easy to say we will do whatever is right yet when the time comes to actually DO it, are we? Are you willing to walk away from a 20 year career if the Director tells you to mark the performance of someone down so their pet will shine? With children in college, will you tell the boss your won’t sign off on that quality document? If you are the breadwinner with a mortgage and the VP misrepresents your department would you stand up? What is your career worth? Your integrity? Your reputation as a leader?


To beat the beast of compromise there are a few thoughts to consider.


  • KNOW WHO YOUR ARE as a leader and person. At the foundation of integrity are ones spiritual beliefs. We are spiritual beings yet many do not explore this, one of the most important aspects of life. Take time to conduct a spiritual evaluation of who you are, what you believe and why you believe what you believe.


  • DECIDE AHEAD OF TIME. In the moment of making choices between right and wrong is not the time to decide where you stand. You know who you are so make a decision ahead of time where you stand and what lines you are not going to cross. Most regretful decisions were made in haste; when we are put under pressure. When the big boss is pushing for you to make a decision you’re not comfortable with and making it a “do it or lose it” with your career is not the time to decide what you believe.


  • GET COUNSEL. When the integrity hits the fan it is time to bring in a different perspective. There is a biblical basis in seeking counsel; it is not a sign of weakness but rather a testimony to someone determined to do what is right.  Find someone who you respect and that shares your same belief system. Give a fair analysis of the story and do your best not to put your own spin on it. Wise counsel could give you ideas on how to handle situations that you never thought of.


  • BE PREPARED TO STAND ALONE. As a leader we all must be willing to stand even if we are the only one standing. This is the reason the above recommendations are so important; if you are certain in your beliefs it is much easier to stand for what you know is right. It is not a maybe; you will be criticized and even become the butt end of jokes. People who aren’t willing to stand will tell you to back off and will distance themselves from you. Understand that strong leaders with convictions are a rare breed so when these things happen stand with pride that you don’t operate in a spirit of fear, but face up to doing the right thing.


  • HAVE AN EXIT STRATEGY. If you’re going to stand up for what is right the option that you may have to move on is a reality that must be considered. Of course my advice to all my clients is that they should always be on the lookout for opportunities. Those who look only when things go awry are the ones who find themselves trapped in an unhealthy work environment or worse yet, on the street having to settle for something less to get back in the workforce. Always be in touch with the job market. Keep your resume updated and even socialize it. There is no greater feeling to know you have options; It is empowering and keeps you from submission to bullying leaders who want you to be someone you’re not.



How do you approach the crossroads of integrity and loyalty?


Robert Simmons, the President/Owner of Leading Life Consulting and Coaching, is a certified Professional and Executive Coach and Lean Six Sigma Master Black Belt.

Leading Life Consulting and Coaching offers business process improvement consulting, employee coaching*, as well as workshops that engage employees to take positive action in the workplace and in their personal lives.

To find out more contact Robert at info@coachrobertsimmons.com

 *Personal coaching sessions are conducted remotely utilizing phone calls, Skype or Facetime to allow flexible scheduling as well as anonymity for clients.


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