Integrity - Our Moral Compass in Leadership
One of the essential characteristics of leadership is integrity. This past week we have witnessed politicians publicly caught out and embarrassed by being away on sunny beach holidays when the rest of us are postponing vacations out of the country due to COVID-19. I'm not sure what makes me more upset: the demonstrated disregard for maintaining public trust, the mere lack of care shown by posting photos of their vacations on social media, or the overall absence of integrity our supposed "leaders" are conveying.
But what exactly is integrity? In my experience, you are true to your word in all you do, and people can trust you because you do what you say. Integrity is a reflection of your character - it helps build your moral compass, which is truly the foundation of any great leader. A leader with integrity makes the right decisions for the right reasons (generally based on personal values).
This Forbes article sums up what happens when we take action without integrity.
"We say one thing and do another. We give our word and take it back (without admitting that we have done so). We compromise on what we think is right. Each tiny breach may feel reasonable now we were protecting ourselves, securing some small personal advantage, or trying to avoid a conflict. But things eventually add up."
When you demonstrate integrity, you need to be willing to make commitments beyond just yourself; you need to be ready to make a sacrifice. With COVID-19 leading by example, not vacationing on a sunny beach while your province is in lockdown or waiting for your team to begin vaccinating the population is a good start. When you ask your public to be "home for the holidays," - you should be walking the walk to demonstrate that you're in it with them. Perhaps no formal rules were banning these leaders from taking holidays out of the country, but we are in a global pandemic. The fact we needed to break out the Crayolas and whiteboards to explain to a politician why this was a bad idea demonstrates a lack of general awareness of how this crisis impacts their constituents. And, we haven't even considered the risks:
Risk of exposing yourself to COVID-19 and bringing it back to your community in Canada;
Risk of becoming ill in a foreign country and looking for Canada to get you home on the taxpayers' dime
Risk of infecting your team members who are working at the forefront of managing the COVID crisis
Risk of being stranded in another country in case the pandemic forced travel bans such as we saw happen in the UK
Let's get back to the meaning of integrity. Integrity is the quality of having strong ethical or moral principles and a compass that you follow, no matter who's watching. A person with integrity acts with honesty, honour, and truthfulness, which was lacking this past week in provinces across Canada from the leaders we are trusting to get us on the other side of this crisis.
We need politicians stepping up - not stepping out - to help influence Canadians' behaviours as we move into 2021 and continue on the pandemic path.