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Mike Horne

Authentic Change

Leadership consultant and coach

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15 powerful ways leaders can increase their integrity and build trust

Are the leaders in your organisation modelling authenticity, integrity, and trust? Mike Horne looks at 15 ways your leadership teams can model these behaviours
Leading with integrity

In my work with groups and teams, I often ask participants, "Are you more authentic at work or home?" The response establishes that most of us leave more of who we are at home than bring to the workplace. 

Inevitably, this question also raises lively discussions around the separation of work and home. The Covid-19 pandemic is shaping the relationships among leaders, managers, and employees in ways unimaginable just two years ago. In the new hybrid work environment, trust and integrity will be at the heart of every leadership action that sustains progress. 

In the new hybrid work environment, trust and integrity will be at the heart of every leadership action that sustains progress

What is integrity?

Integrity is defined as the genuine article or something that comes out of whole cloth. Our experiences as managers and employees provide great insight into the relationship between trust and integrity. If a person doesn't trust another, they won't believe that the other person has integrity. We judge a person lacking integrity as untrustworthy. 

Gallup's employee research shows that 70 per cent of employee engagement is within a manager's control. What do good managers do? They build relationships based on trust and integrity. 

Among the thousands of managers and leaders I've worked with worldwide, these 15 practices develop integrity and fuel personal, team, and company excellence. How are you performing against these criteria today, and what actions would upskill your leadership?

1. Build self-awareness

If you're self-aware, you understand how others perceive you. You can focus your actions and emotions and align your behaviours with your strengths and dedicated efforts. Self-aware people are among those who succeed at leading others.

2. Say hello

It's our oldest and best technology for inclusion. We acknowledge the unique individuals in front of us, whether in conference rooms or web-enabled meetings when we say "hello." Too often, we're anxious to get to the details, neglecting those who make work happen! Place people before tasks.

3. Tell the truth

Trust erodes when leaders don't tell the truth. Remember, your remarks are likely to be repeated. There are few, if any, secrets in organisational life. If you can't say or act on your words, don't.

Transparency promotes participation and contributes to equitable and ethical decision-making and fairness

4. Engage the platinum rule

Treat others as they would like done unto them. Step outside of your experiences to fully meet others where they are. You'll demonstrate empathy and compassion, and what all employees want and value most: understanding.

5. Congruency aids happiness

When thoughts, words, and actions match, a person achieves psychological congruency. The research is detailed, congruent people are happy people, and we enjoy working with happy people. Maybe this is one contagion we wouldn't mind!

6. Return and re-enlist your values

Authentic and integral leaders have a clear moral compass. They distinguish between what is right and wrong. Your values shape your behaviours. Can you readily identify three to five values that shape who you are and what you do?

7. Improve decision-making practices

Develop an approach for making decisions with your team. Transparency promotes participation and contributes to equitable and ethical decision-making and fairness. Good decision-making practices involve others in problem-solving and implementation, and talent is essential to success in both areas.

8. Lead from a legacy

People will remember what you did and how you made them feel. What you do today reflects the choices you make and the actions you take. Are you living the life for which you want to be known? Most of us aren't famous to many, but we are critical to those with whom we engage. Lead in ways that you want to be known.

9. Act from a solid moral and ethical foundation

Know your company's rules and policies, and champion them or change them. Work with others to promote ethical practices in your organisation. Engagement increases when we deal with each other fairly, honestly, and transparently.

10. Don't make integrity an ‘inside job’ 

We develop integrity in a social world, and many approaches call for introspection. It's essential to get insights from others on how you come across. A skilled leader seeks feedback to improve interpersonal and managerial effectiveness to develop integrity.

11. Appreciate and understand the context of things

In our work encounters, we seldom know what happened to people five minutes before we met them or what will happen five minutes later. It's essential to appreciate the context in which we meet others and the unique privilege to prosper because of our relationships.

Outstanding leaders involve others by enlisting and enrolling them in a shared purpose and mission

12. Lead change and manage transitions

The heart-centred approaches of leaders of integrity arise, in part, because of their skill in managing personal and organisational transitions. Successful leaders acknowledge the past and have a future vision but succeed by working here and now. 

13. Create citizenship and community

Outstanding leaders involve others by enlisting and enrolling them in a shared purpose and mission. People long to be included, to be part of a community. Leaders of integrity create and support prosperous communities.

14. Model

Effective leaders model the behaviours they desire in others. They are paragons of excellence at a human and approachable scale. We are more likely to repeat what we observe instead of what we merely hear.

15. Growth, change, and development requires an accountable adult

The quest for excellence is staked in the idea of doing or being better. Growth and change come with opportunity and risk, and you are at the helm of your ship and journey. Lead responsibly.

Lead with confidence

Integrity profoundly conditions our effectiveness and abilities to lead others. Without trust and integrity, people and teams are unlikely to achieve greatness and perform beyond expectations. You will be more effective at helping and developing integrity in others when you are clear about your integrity. 

Measure your progress by valuing others as much as you do yourself to guide the significance of your career. Integrity will be at the heart of every breakthrough to our evolving challenges at home, work, and in the world. 

Mike Horne, Ph.D., is a coach to leaders and their teams and the author of Integrity by Design: Working and Living Authentically (2021) and the host of the Authentic Change Podcast.

Interested in this topic? Read Leaders are neglecting purpose, connection and collaboration.

Author Profile Picture
Mike Horne

Leadership consultant and coach

Read more from Mike Horne

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