Sunday, April 16, 2006

INTEGRITY – The New Leadership Story

By Ed Konczal & Jeannette Galvanek
A contribution to the
Summit for the Future - May 3-5, 2006 - Creative Leadership


While leadership is vital to corporate performance, there is a growing realization that effective, trustworthy leaders are absolutely crucial to be successful in the future. In addition, leader characteristics are dramatically different than past leader, even the recent past.

Command and control is out, organizations are flatter, the competitive landscape is chaotic, people want meaningful work, and customers are in control. This transition is frequently compared to the Industrial and Information Economies, but the breadth of changes are so dramatic, little precedent exists.

Through our experience and research we defined 21st Century Leader characteristics needed in an increasingly changing business landscape. Leaders need to continuously adapt to their overall context. Application of these characteristics is more art than science.

While all characteristics are needed, Integrity is vital. Most companies are not ethically (and now financially) bankrupt like Enron, but we still have leaders lacking credibility. Lack of Integrity must not be tolerated. Otherwise everything else that contributes to corporate success will suffer.


Integrity is a delicate jewel. Building integrity in leaders and organizations takes time and cannot be feigned. You must feel it in your gut, in your core beliefs that being honest and trustworthy is the right business practice. If you feel that integrity is only a route to financial success, you are doomed to failure.

Not financial acumen. Not vision. Not creativity. What employees want most from their business leaders are basic principles in practice such as honesty, integrity, ethics and caring, according to the results of a survey conducted by Right Management Consultants.

Consider these suggestions as you build integrity within your leadership team. They are aimed at integrating Integrity within the organizational culture. You must address “the way we do things here in company x”, or the norms governing how people make decisions each day.

A) Integrity starts with the Board of Directors who develops an ethical practices statement and demand adherence. Violators must be publicly admonished similar to what Jack Welch did at GE.

B) Insure these practices flow easily throughout the culture and embedded in the formal and informal company practices

C) Stop the scoundrels at the gate – when recruiting leadership positions, use new approaches to reviews and assessments designed to surface integrity issues. Bristol-Myers, Pfizer and smaller companies such as Spartan Stores are using innovative approaches to filter out candidates with Integrity issues.

D) Put Integrity components in compensation/incentives programs for all not just executives.

E) Communication between leaders and people in the organization deteriorated despite polished multimedia techniques. Your message may be lost in the technology. Tell stories about authentic leaders at company meetings, publish them in company newsletters. Tell them about company performance. Avoid fancy slides, just tell them the facts.

F) Leader development programs must include a first course/seminar in Integrity.

G) Be seen by your people. Let them see and talk with you in a relaxed place. If you “hide” in your office, it’s difficult to build Integrity.

H) Turn bureaucracy on its head.

I) Establish a “safe-haven” permitting employees to surface integrity problems without fear of retribution.

J) Tough decisions always challenge Integrity. Such times require courage to do the right things. Don’t waste time over analyzing. Embrace integrity and you’ll know what to do.

K) No more “yes men/women”. Surround yourself with trusted people with diverse viewpoints who tell you what they really think about your ideas. Building Integrity takes time and continuous vigilance to maintain.

These guidelines are not conclusive. We don’t know your business context. But if you follow these you will be off to a good start.

See also in our Book Shop "Simple Stories for Leadership Insights in the New Economy" by Jeannette Galvanek, Ed Konczal


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