Integrity: The Leadership Gap between Excellence and Mediocrity

By Pat HeydlauffPat Heydlauff

“Somebody once said that in looking for people to hire, you look for three qualities: integrity, intelligence and energy. And if you don’t have the first, the other two will kill you. You think about it; it’s true. If you hire somebody without [integrity], you really want them to be dumb and lazy,” according to Warren Buffett, CEO of Berkshire Hathaway.

Integrity is defined as soundness of moral principle and character; ethical, uprightness, honor and honesty – strong convictions built on truth. Another way to define integrity is “doing the right thing at the right time for the right reasons.”

Various studies show that integrity is the number one leadership requirement for excellence. The question is: has integrity been lost to today’s fastpace? Are people so caught up with speed, money, over-committing and the “I want it now” mentality that excellence and integrity are relegated to obsolescence?

Is this a core value or learned skill? Integrity is the cornerstone of your character. It is one of the major components of your core value system that grounds you and molds you into all that you are. You either have it or you don’t – much like honesty. You are either honest or dishonest. Integrity is built in at a very early age. Your parents, older siblings, family members and other influential adults help form your core values, based on their core values, before the age of five.

Integrity is a Way of Life. It is a way of thinking and acting. It’s about walking your talk. Excellence comes from aligning your core values, your integrity, with your actions in all areas of your life. This process not only allows you to achieve and accomplish well above expectations, it also creates a calm balance in your life no matter how hectic it may be. Can integrity be a learned trait – no unless you have a life-altering experience! One that demands you change your core belief systems.

Know Your Limits. Dr. Richard A. Swenson, author of A Minute Margin said it well, “…chronic activity overload is a toxic condition.” His premise was that activity addiction creates disengagement and disconnection. When you know your limits and stand by them, you are in control and much less tempted to veer off your integrity path. It is the distractions, expectations and temptations along with electronic media demands that constantly try to erode your integrity.

Whether it is family, business or political integrity, overload always leads to temptation to not doing the right thing but rather the most expediting or least costly thing just to get to the end result faster and cheaper – rather than the right result. Determine what your overload plateau is and avoid it at all costs to eliminate the temptation issue.

Refresh, Renew to Refuel. Use the 80/20 rule. At the end of every week, evaluate everything you need accomplish in the week ahead and allot 80 percent of your time for accomplishing those items. Allot the other 20 percent of your time for planning, thinking and reading, plus quiet time to refresh, renew and refuel yourself. It is important for leaders to understand that excellence comes not only from integrity and character but also time for introspection and reflection. If you allot 100 percent of your time to your workload and leadership responsibilities how can one carve out time to think, solve problems and plan for the future?

By using 80 percent of your time to accomplish the “must do” things on your list you will also be more efficient, effective and productive. At the same time, you will reduce personal stress by accomplishing those things that are most important while nurturing yourself.

Conquer the Gap.  Do the right things for the right reasons at any cost! Integrity is not negotiable and compromise does not exist when integrity takes a stand. Integrity means:

  • Take control of your schedule – don’t allow things and others to control you

  • Say “no” to toxic overload – the demands of others, social media distractions and outside temptations must take a backseat

  • Schedule calendar time for yourself for reflection and introspection – close your door, hold all calls, silence the cell phone – your personal time will lead you to improved excellence

  • Master expectation overload: when scheduling your workload be realistic – if you’ve overscheduled admit you are wrong and make the necessary changes

  • Align your actions with your words and thoughts to maintain integrity and balance

  • If you’ve fallen off the integrity wagon, get back on track by admitting your imperfections and moving forward

When you conquer the integrity gap, you achieve excellence. It is not only within reach but maintainable.

Pat Heydlauff speaks from experience. She works with organizations that want to create an environment where employees are engaged, encouraged and involved, and with people who want to be in control, anxiety-free and confident. She is the author of the forthcoming book, Engage: How to Lead with Power, Productivity and Promise and Feng Shui: So Easy a Child Can Do It. She can be reached at 561-799-3443 or engagetolead.com.

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About editor

Wordsmith Peter DeHaan shares his passion for life and faith through words. Peter DeHaan’s website (www.peterdehaan.com) contains information and links to his blogs, newsletter, and social media pages. Peter DeHaan is the president of Peter DeHaan Publishing, Inc., (www.peterdehaanpublishing.com) the publisher and editor of Connections Magazine and AnswerStat, and editor of Article Weekly.