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New Leaders: Your Standards will Test Your Integrity

Each time a new leader claims to have standards, an Integrity test is coming.

The standards. Sometimes new leaders are too heavy handed with standards. Other times they are too soft with standards. Many new leaders fail because they are unsure about how they will enforce standards with their new teams.

I got myself in trouble as a young sales manager because I claimed to have certain standards, yet when the rubber met the road, I enforced some and ignored others. That created tension between me and the people I was called to lead. They did not know which was a real standard and which one was just a talking point. My inconsistency created trust issues between us.

Sometimes these standards were my own, and some standards were set up by the larger organization. Like most people, I didn’t agree with all the standards that other people set up for us. So I inconsistently enforced standards.

Every new leader needs to understand that every time you choose to ignore or enforce a standard, that choice is an Integrity test. The question is often how valuable your Integrity is to you. If you say something is a standard, yet you do nothing to ensure that standard is being met, that is not truly your standard.

What do we call people who say one thing, yet do another? Most of us would call that a hypocrite. And none of us looks in the mirror in the morning with the goal of being a hypocrite. But the choices we make around standards will often decide whether we are someone that can be relied upon to make consistent decisions.

Standards will also challenge our Integrity because they reveal whether you take your commitments seriously. I look back now and realize that each time I accepted a paycheck from my employer, I had just renewed my commitment to uphold the employer’s standards. It didn’t matter whether I liked the standards or not. By taking on the role of leader, and also accepting that paycheck, I had committed myself.

Caveat: If your employer is asking you to do something immoral, illegal, or unethical, your Integrity is being tested in a different way. Now you have a moral obligation to exercise Integrity and fight against that standard.

When we don’t like a standard, we should speak up and ask questions so we can understand why they became standards. There may be a legitimate reason those standards were developed. But by asking those questions, you might find the opportunity to speak into them and change them. However, even after we ask those questions, the powers at be above us may not change them. Again, if they are not immoral, illegal or unethical, then we still need to uphold them to keep our Integrity intact.

Each time a new leader claims to have standards, I guarantee that an Integrity test is coming. Whatever you say will mean nothing without the Courage to act on those standards. When we have the Courage to follow through on our standards, our consistency will strengthen our Integrity and create trust with the people around us.

Dig Deep Questions:

  • What standards do you have, and are you willing to hold people accountable to those?

  • What does your answer say about how you value your Integrity?


Here is a quick assessment that will take you 5 minutes to figure it out. Nobody will ever see your results but you.

Warning: If you are not going to be honest with yourself this is a worthless assessment.

To take the assessment use the QR code above or go to

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