What are you going to choose? Your Integrity or something less?
During my early years as a sales leader, I operated in ethical gray areas. I even encouraged my team to operate there as well. Even though we had the core value of Integrity hanging on our walls, the gray areas had become our norm. It was part of our culture—and that was my fault.
At one point in my life, I made the distinct choice that I was no longer going to work from ethical gray areas. I shared this with my team and apologized to them. I asked them to forgive me for putting them in a position which would cause them to sacrifice their personal Integrity. I promised them I would no longer support the gray areas. I would no longer answer their tough ethical dilemmas with a wishy-washy reply based on situational ethics. My answers would be a simple “Yes” or “No.”
Three years later, I moved to Texas and worked with another team. A tenured team member shared with me how he was unsure about the person who had been named to take my place. I explained to him it would be a good learning experience for him to have two different leaders. It would provide solid, varying examples since he desired a management role in our company someday.
That is when he taught me an important lesson. He said to me:
“I already had two leaders. I had Dave Anderson #1 for the first 2 years and Dave Anderson 2.0 for the last 3 years. The day you walked in and told us ‘No more gray areas’ was the day we knew we could trust you. That was when we knew you would always have our backs.”
I thought I had been helping my team by giving them “wiggle room” and operating with fuzzy standards. When in actuality, I created anxiety and distrust. Because I was not steadfast with my Integrity, they did not know where the lines were and if they were safe.
As we mentioned in the beginning of this series on Integrity, the word “Integer” means “whole or pure.” When I exercised situational Integrity, I was not actually exercising Integrity.
Our teams and families want someone to lead them with Integrity. They are not looking to follow someone who is inconsistent in their words or actions. Our character is the sum total of our habits—the good ones and the bad ones. Having cheap “Integrity,” breaking commitments and operating inside situational ethics are all habits.
The good news is—we break old habits with new choices. Each time we choose to keep our Integrity pure and do the right thing even when it is difficult, it becomes easier to make that same choice in the future.
As others watch us make difficult Integrity choices, it inspires them to follow us. Since our choices are 100% in our control, we have the power to be the leaders others seek to follow, both in the workplace or in our home life. The question is what are we going to choose? Our Integrity? Or something less?
How does operating in the gray areas compromise Integrity?
What is one area you can exercise Integrity and avoid the gray areas this week?
Making a shift towards taking responsibility and living with Integrity is a lifelong journey. We want to partner with you as you practice the habit of Integrity daily, which is why we have created our Habits of Character Action Guides.
The Integrity Action Guide offers you a month of daily, interactive training complete with a daily reading, dig deep questions, weekly processing guides and instructions on how to use the guide both individually and with your team. The Integrity Action Guide is now available here.
We are behind you, championing for you, your teams and your organizations as you become the leader you wish you had. We want to come alongside you as you grow to confidently answer “yes” to the question, “Would you follow you?”