This is an ongoing series on my blog regarding leadership. It was prompted by the response I got to an initial post on What Is Leadership? This was followed by two posts, each exploring a single characteristic of leadership. The first was on Being Inspirational. Leaders should make people want to take action, participate, be involved, and probably most of all, emulate them. The second post was on a specific trait many leaders possess, Resilience. You can read all of those posts by clicking on the highlighted text in this paragraph.
Since there are many qualities good leaders are in possession of, I am continuing the series by posting individually about some of these qualities. Today’s post is on Integrity. This is an important quality for all of us, leaders or not. It is also a quality which I feel that today’s social media is influencing, and not in a good way.
So what is integrity? You’ve seen the posters on Pinterest or in classrooms, or in an office, with the famous quote: “Integrity is doing the right thing EVEN when no one is watching.” Merriam Webster’s Online dictionary defines integrity as, “firm adherence to a code of especially moral or artistic values.” Synonyms for integrity include honesty, incorruptibility, veracity, or truthfulness. The site goes on to further say that, “INTEGRITY implies trustworthiness and incorruptibility to a degree that one is incapable of being false to a trust, responsibility, or pledge.”
But, what if something is done for effect? Even though an act appears to be done with adherence to a moral standard, if said act is advertised (such as through social media) to let the public know it was done, I propose that it is no longer an act of integrity. Unfortunately, I’ve seen many examples of this of late. If one is truly acting with integrity then no one needs to know about it. One certainly should not seek (or receive) recognition for an act of integrity if that recognition has been sought through the wide sharing of the act on social media.
I know this is probably an unpopular thing to say. But, one should be content acting with integrity because it is who you are and you are acting in accordance with your beliefs and/or moral code, not because of secondary gains. Seeking attention or recognition are secondary gains and I believe that it takes away from the act itself. In other words, once the act is shared on social media, it is no longer an act of integrity.
Integrity forces one to act within their own moral code and do the right thing, even if no one sees or recognizes that the act has been done. Helping a victim of a fire without recognition of that help is acting with integrity. Donating to a cause you believe without broadcasting you’ve done so, is acting with integrity. Admitting a mistake you made, AND accepting the consequences (not looking to avoid them) is acting with integrity. Standing up for others, less fortunate, without telling everyone you did so is acting with integrity. Integrity is something leaders must possess. People realize these leaders have integrity because it is witnessed, not shared, not advertised, and not broadcasted over social media. It is observed and remembered by others when it occurs!
So, you might be asking what are some specific examples? Sitting with an unpopular girl during a meal on a school trip because no one else will is a great example. No one knows because no one sees. Still, it is the right thing to do, so it is done. Helping a classmate who is hurt and not posting about it, is yet another example. Delivering meals to the needy for years without any recognition of time spent, is an act of integrity done by many but not rewarded. Making blankets for the homeless and passing them out on a cold day without telling anyone what you are doing could be another example. Am I doing any of these things? No, but these are examples of acting with integrity. This post is not a couched way of telling you what I am doing or a family member is doing that is not being recognized. It is a post about acting with integrity. It is about doing the right thing even though no one knows or is told about it. It is about not receiving recognition for the things you do because they are the right thing to do. It is about being true to who you are without reward or recognition. Thank you to those I know who do such things! Again, I pose that social media is changing the face of integrity, recognizing those who are better broadcasters of good works than the actual honest acts done with integrity, because it is the right thing to do. All I ask is that you think about the trait of integrity for a while. When you act with integrity, do you really need to share that you did so? If not, don’t share. Then, and only then, will you be a leader acting with integrity. You will also become a role model for your children and others who stay true to who they are without any external reinforcement, reward, or recognition.
We need more integrity amongst our leaders today.
I hope this post inspired you to be one!
“It is true that integrity alone won’t make you a leader, but without integrity you will never be one” Source: Zig Ziglar