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Common job issues and solutions in Executive Leadership / General Management

How True Leaders Demonstrate Unwavering Integrity


{#/pub/images/HowTrueLeadersDemonstrateUnwaveringIntegrity.jpg}The dictionary defines integrity as a firm adherence to a code of especially moral and ethical principles demonstrating a soundness of character and honesty. The question: are these the first words that come to mind when thinking of corporate, business or political leaders? Ken Stinson, former CEO, private equity principal and member of multiple corporate boards had the following to say at a corporate meeting several years ago,


“Real life temptations are not always so clear-cut. They more often come in seemingly small and minor ethical shortcuts. True leaders understand that these temptations are constant, but that their careers and the company’s fortunes are best served by taking the honest and honorable course in both word and action.”


What Mr. Stinson was referencing is a trait of leadership called unwavering integrity, the ability of a leader to develop the necessary skills and sensitivity that wholly incorporates character into their words, actions and decisions at all times. And to demand the same from others, no matter the magnitude of the temptation or its potential outcome. In other words, true leaders are transparent in their integrity and expect the same from their management team and employees. They expect all that represent themselves to customers to perform with the same values of integrity extending unwavering integrity into overall best practices.


Decisions and Integrity


In most business dealings we are faced with temptations that test our commitment to the principles of integrity. Ask yourself,


  • Have you ever been involved in an incident where against your better judgment you had to cover up a mistake or deviate from policy because it was an easy way out? 

  • Cover up faulty workmanship to avoid repair or rework costs? 

  • Exaggerate a change order or claim in order to add revenue to a project? 

  • Shift responsibility to a fellow worker fearing the consequences of actions you may have taken in completing tasks?


These are just a few of many questions.  I am certain with a little thought, each of us could expand this list to include many more. 


As a leader, the tone for your organization is set by your actions; employees will follow suit. 


As a leader, if your actions are performed with unwavering integrity, the financial return to the company and to you personally will far outweigh any short-term benefits that may be realized without it.


How to Demonstrate Unwavering Integrity


The following checklist and guideline is based on feedback from multiple 360 studies, interviews with key executives and the opportunity to witness the successful business and professional growth where unwavering integrity has been the foundation. It is intended for the reader to utilize as a self-evaluation relative to their personal leadership attributes and those of the team and their company relative to demonstrated integrity.  




  • Transparent in decision making
  • Does not act on temptations to improve outcome at any level
  • Requires and expects some level of integrity in others
  • Demonstrates character in both words and actions
  • Knows that all words and actions demonstrated by a leader are likely to be judged and mimicked
  • Understands short-term ethical decisions will impact long-term success


Ask yourself, how did I do and more importantly, how do I feel my company, team and overall leadership would have done if faced with this checklist. The first step to integrity is honesty.


Action Plan


If the desire is to move toward unwavering integrity, then it is important that we first recognize our weaknesses. Through recognition comes acceptance and from acceptance comes corrective actions. Take the time to fill in the following:


1.  My greatest challenge in shifting to an unwavering integrity environment is:





2.  I am going to seek input from the following people to help me better understand:





3.  The following are the action steps I am committed to putting in place:

(Make a list and determine how you will be held accountable)







There are many attributes that define leadership, perhaps none more important than integrity. Today, our business and personal lives seem more entwined than ever and the values we bring to both on a daily basis define who we are. Through unwavering integrity, customers, employees and fellow management will understand that the talk and walk are one and the same. 


It is far easier to remember and abide by the truth than to try to keep straight the inconsistencies, possible lies and exaggerations and excuses. As has been frequently said, it starts with you, integrity is contagious and success personally and professionally will be greatly enhanced.


{#/pub/images/DavidShafferPhoto.jpg}Written by David Shaffer, Business Advisor & Executive Coach, David Shaffer Consulting LLC   Recognized for his ability to effectively integrate all aspects of business including financial management, information systems, infrastructure, sales management, sales strategies and operations. David assists companies from executive strategic planning through operational and business process improvement opportunities to the selection and integration of Management Information Systems solutions. He also supports Private Equity firms in due diligence activities extending from strategic planning into leadership development and CEO mentoring. His range of company support includes start up through fortune 500.


Do you have a question for David? Please visito our Executive Leadership Community, he will be happy to help: Ask an Expert



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