Why Integrity Matters

I had a disturbing conversation recently with someone who is very proud of their integrity and reputation. Actually the conversation was disturbing precisely because they claimed to be so proud of their integrity and the credibility that came with in.

We were discussing a sales opportunities. This person had several “ideas” on what they could do to “tip the scales” in their favor. I pointed out that most of the ideas crossed the line into unethical territory. Some were even borderline illegal. He said sometimes you need to “set integrity and ethics aside” in order to make a sale. He said it’s all part of business. He said setting aside integrity for the sake of business does not make a person unethical.

I immediately cut off the conversation and said setting aside ethics proves, without a doubt, that you are unethical. Period. End of story. You are either ethical all the time or you are not ethical.

With all due respect to my friends and colleagues who have written books entitled “Situational Integrity,” “Workplace Ethics” or any such malarkey, you’re just not thinking clearly on this. There cannot be one set of ethics from 9 to 5 in the office and then another set of ethics for the evening or weekend. Because, you are either ethical all the time, all the time, as in every minute of every day, or you are not ethical at all.

Integrity and ethics are fundamental principles that matter in both business and life for a variety of reasons. First, they serve as the moral compass that guides our decisions and actions. Second, they ensure that we behave responsibly and honestly. There are no circumstances where integrity and ethics don’t matter. Here’s why:

• Integrity and ethics build trust, which is a cornerstone of any successful personal or business relationship. When people know they can rely on your word and actions, they are more likely to trust and respect you. Trust is also essential in business as it leads to customer loyalty and a positive reputation in the marketplace.

• Ethical behavior promotes long-term success. Unethical decisions might provide short-term gains, but they often lead to negative consequences in the future. By conducting business with integrity, you create a sustainable foundation for growth and stability.

• Many laws and regulations exist to enforce ethical standards in business. Failing to adhere to these standards can result in legal consequences, fines, and damage to your reputation. By maintaining high ethical standards, you reduce the risk of legal troubles and associated costs.

• Ethical business practices foster a positive work environment. When employees know that their organization values integrity and ethics, they are more likely to feel motivated and engaged. This, in turn, leads to increased productivity and lower turnover rates.

• Customers are more likely to support and remain loyal to businesses that operate ethically. When they perceive a company as honest and transparent, they are more willing to make repeat purchases. They are also more likely to recommend the business to others.

• In a competitive marketplace, ethical behavior can be a significant differentiator. Businesses that consistently operate with integrity can stand out from the competition. They attract customers who prioritize ethical considerations.

• Ethical businesses often engage in socially responsible practices. Things such as environmental sustainability, fair labor practices, and community engagement. These actions contribute to the betterment of society and enhance a company’s image.

• In life, practicing integrity and ethics brings personal fulfillment and a sense of self-worth. Living by your values and principles can lead to a happier and more fulfilling life.

• Whether in business or life, ethical behavior fosters positive relationships. It helps you build strong, lasting connections with others based on trust and respect.

Possessing integrity and being ethical make for good business. They also make for a great life. They help shape a positive and sustainable future for individuals, organizations, and society as a whole. If you’re willing to trade your commitment to integrity and ethics for a short-term personal gain then you’ve made yourself one horrible trade.

How to be More Confident

Confidence is often an overlooked characteristic of successful people. That may be because many people believe that confidence comes after you’re successful. The reality is that confidence often comes before success. You would even be safe in saying that success happens because of confidence.

Self-confidence, truly believing in yourself, is a valuable trait that can positively impact every area of your life. Building confidence is a gradual process that varies from person to person. Here are some steps that anyone can take to become more confident today.

• Self-awareness: Understand your strengths, weaknesses, and areas where you lack confidence. Being aware of your capabilities and limitations allows you to set realistic goals and work towards them.

• Positive self-talk: Challenge negative thoughts and replace them with positive affirmations. Instead of dwelling on what you can’t do, focus on what you can achieve. Be your own biggest supporter rather than your harshest critic. Some people think that the whole positive self-talk stuff is for wimps but here’s the deal…it actually works…bigly.

• Set achievable goals: Start with small, attainable goals that you can consistently accomplish. As you achieve these goals, you’ll gradually build a sense of accomplishment and boost your self-esteem. Your want some goals that stretch you too but not every goal can or should be a stretch goal.

• Preparation: Knowledge and preparation are key to feeling confident. Whether it’s a presentation, interview, or any other task, being well-prepared reduces uncertainty and boosts your confidence. Research and practice extensively beforehand.

• Body language: Your body language can influence how you feel and how others perceive you. Stand tall, maintain good posture, make eye contact, and use open gestures. These nonverbal cues can convey confidence even when you might not feel it internally.

• Dress the part: Wearing clothes that make you feel comfortable and confident can have a positive impact on your self-image. When you feel good about how you look, it often translates into increased self-assurance. This matters in your virtual life as well. Even if you’re doing a Zoom call dress as if you’re live and in person. Others may not see the difference but you will feel it.

• Face your fears: Often, lack of confidence is tied to fear of failure or rejection. By gradually facing your fears and taking calculated risks, you’ll learn that setbacks are a normal part of growth and development. Understand that the only place fear actually exists is in our minds. The fastest way to overcome the illusion of fear is to take action, do something. You’ll forget about your fear soon enough.

• Learn from mistakes: Instead of dwelling on failures, view them as opportunities for growth. Analyze what went wrong, identify lessons learned, and apply those lessons to future endeavors.

• Focus on your strengths: Celebrate your successes and remind yourself of your past achievements. Reflecting on your abilities and accomplishments can help you maintain a positive self-perception.

• Step out of your comfort zone: Growth occurs outside of your comfort zone. By trying new things and challenging yourself, you’ll develop a sense of adaptability and resilience that contributes to confidence.

A couple more thoughts on confidence. Be careful when projecting confidence around others. Less confident people may mistake your confidence for arrogance. It’s even possible that you could allow your new found confidence to turn into arrogance. Neither of those situations is helpful to you or the people around you. So don’t let them happen.

Remember that building confidence is an ongoing journey. It’s normal to have moments of self-doubt, but with consistent effort and a positive mindset, you can develop a strong foundation of self-assurance over time.

How to Truly Earn a Leadership Position

Have you ever wondered how some people “found” their way into a leadership position? Some people “earn” the position simply by being around for a long time. Some are pals with someone higher up in the company. Some are suck ups who will say or do anything to gain a little power. 

But some truly earn the right to lead. Truly earning a leadership position requires a combination of skills, qualities, and actions that demonstrate your ability to effectively lead and inspire others. If your goal is to lead others in such a way as to make a positive difference in their lives then here are a few development areas to consider. 

  • Self-Development:
    • Continuous Learning: Invest in your personal and professional development. Seek new skills, knowledge, and certifications relevant to your field. This shows your commitment to growth and improvement.
    • Self-Awareness: Understand your strengths, weaknesses, values, and leadership style. Being self-aware allows you to leverage your strengths and work on areas that need improvement.
  • Demonstrate Leadership Qualities:
    • Communication: Develop strong communication skills, both verbal and written. A good leader can convey ideas clearly, listen actively, and foster open dialogue.
    • Decision-Making: Show your ability to make informed and timely decisions. Be sure to consider both short-term and long-term impacts.
    • Problem-Solving: Demonstrate your aptitude for analyzing complex situations, identifying root causes, and proposing effective solutions.
    • Emotional Intelligence: Display empathy, understanding, and the ability to manage emotions. Both your own and those of others.
    • Resilience: Leaders often face challenges and setbacks. Demonstrating resilience and a positive attitude in the face of adversity is crucial.
  • Show Initiative and Responsibility:
    • Proactive Attitude: Take the initiative to go above and beyond your current role. Identify opportunities for improvement and take action.
    • Accountability: Hold yourself accountable for your actions and decisions. Admit mistakes and learn from them rather than placing blame on others.
  • Build Relationships:
    • Networking: Cultivate a strong professional network both within and outside your organization. Networking can expose you to new opportunities and provide valuable insights.
    • Mentorship and Collaboration: Seek guidance from experienced leaders and collaborate effectively with colleagues. Being a team player and supporting others can make you a respected figure within your organization.
  • Lead by Example:
    • Work Ethic: Exhibit a strong work ethic and dedication to your role. Be punctual, reliable, and willing to put in extra effort when needed.
    • Integrity: Uphold high ethical standards in your interactions and decisions. Consistently act with honesty and transparency.
  • Take on Leadership Roles:
    • Volunteer for Projects: Seek out opportunities to lead projects or teams. Even if they are outside your immediate responsibilities. This demonstrates your willingness to take on additional responsibilities.
    • Demonstrate Results: Deliver measurable results in your current role and any leadership roles you take on. Tangible achievements showcase your ability to drive success.
  • Seek Feedback and Improve:
    • Feedback: Actively solicit feedback from colleagues, supervisors, and mentors. Use this feedback to identify areas for improvement and adjust your approach.
    • Adaptability: Be open to change and willing to adapt your leadership style based on feedback and evolving circumstances.
  • Express Interest and Ambition:
    • Express Your Intentions: Let your supervisors or higher-ups know about your interest in taking on leadership roles. This demonstrates your ambition and commitment to the organization’s success.
  • Continuous Improvement:
    • Reflect and Learn: Regularly reflect on your leadership journey, identifying areas where you’ve grown and areas that still need development. Be committed to continuous improvement.

Truly earning a leadership position is a gradual process. It requires consistent effort, dedication, and a willingness to learn from your experiences. It’s about demonstrating your ability to lead effectively, inspire others, and contribute positively to your organization’s goals. It’s a process that never ends because even after you’ve been promoted to a leadership position you must continually earn the right to stay there. 

The Motivational Leader

When I do Leadership presentations and workshops I’ll frequently make the statement that people are naturally motivated. Not some people, ALL people are naturally motivated. 

That gets as much pushback as almost anything I say. “Leaders” in the room will respond with silly comments like “you’ve never met some of my people.” Or “I’ve got people you couldn’t motivate with dynamite.” 

My response is always some variation of “sounds like a leadership problem to me.” I say it jokingly but I’m not joking. I ask who is responsible for motivating people in your organization? I generally get no response. That’s understandable because they just told me they have unmotivated people. To admit it’s their responsibility to motivate them would be admitting that they are not actually leading. 

But everyone in that room knows that one of the primary responsibilities of leadership is to motivate and encourage the people they lead. But, like almost everything else worth doing, that is easier said than done. 

Here’s the thing. No one wakes up in the morning hoping their day will suck. No one begins life with the desire to drag themselves through every day. Everyone wants to do something that matters. That’s how we all start off. But somewhere along the line many people lose that enthusiasm and motivation. It is most likely stolen from them by bosses who couldn’t lead or they caught the “unmotivated bug” from friends and family who have given up on their own dreams. But they want to be motivated, they just need a little push.

If you’re in a Leadership position and you want to help your people get and stay motivated the first step is to STOP complaining about unmotivated people on your team and start actually leading them towards greater motivation. 

Next, schedule consistent one-on-one time with them. Ask them how they would like to structure this time together. Remember, for this time to be productive it must benefit you AND your people. This is your time to set clear goals and expectations and to discuss how those expectations will be measured. People NEED to know what’s expected of them and how those expectations will be measured. 

This is their time to share ideas, suggestions, and issues. People value relationships with their leaders and these one-on-ones are all about building those relationships. 

Here’s a crazy idea for discovering how to motivate your people. During the one-on-one ask them directly what motivates them and how you can help them remain more motivated. Do you know the goals, aspirations, and interests of the people you lead? It becomes far easier to motivate someone when you know what motivates them. Here’s the caveat to this question…they may not know the answer. At least not off the top of their head. That’s fine, ask them to think about it. About where they want to be in five years. About what they want to accomplish. For some of your people they may have never considered those questions before. 

If you want your people to know you care for them as people then ask about them as people. Yes, “the job” is important but as a leader you cannot afford to forget that “the job” is done by people. Real live human beings. 

Once they know what motivates them, and you know what motivates them, you can work together towards that common motivating goal. Authentic Leadership is about making human connections and there isn’t anything more human then helping another person achieve their life goals. 

It is very possible the pursuit of those goals will require learning new skills. As a leader one of your other primary responsibilities is to help your people grow. Now you know where to help them grow. Their commitment to you and the organization strengthens as you help them grow. So does their motivation to improve. They are not only motivated to do a better job for themselves, they are motivated to do a better job for you. 

When your people have doubts about their ability to grow, SHOW your belief in them by giving them purposeful work. Show them how their work makes a difference for you, for the organization and especially for themselves. Trust them to do the work without micromanaging the motivation out of them. 

Your belief in them might be the exact nudge they need to remain motivated when obstacles appear. It’s even possible you’re the first person who has shown them that level of trust and belief. 

Above all, create a culture where motivation thrives. Where people are encouraged to excel. Where mistakes are accepted as part of the growth process. A culture where people feel they matter. 

When you do all that there is no question about your leadership because you’ll have demonstrated that you are in fact, an Authentic Leader. You’ll even be a Motivating Leader!

Are You a Leadership Fool?

Some people like being fooled so much that when they can’t find somebody to fool them they will fool themselves. One group that fits into that category is people who somehow find themselves in leadership positions but are most definitely NOT leaders. 

They have no aptitude for leading. They have no leadership training. They have no interest in helping the people they are supposed to be leading. Their only interest is in claiming whatever title and perks come with the leadership position. 

They fool themselves into thinking they are actually leading when in fact they don’t even know what Authentic Leadership is. The worst part of fooling themselves is that it prevents them from growing into an actual leader.

If they were interested in actually leading they would learn the difference between managing and leading. They would learn that “things” can be managed but people cannot. They would discover that people need leadership. 

That would hopefully cause them to learn the characteristics of Authentic Leadership. They may even attempt to internalize those characteristics. Those characteristics include, in no particular order…

Self-awareness. Authentic Leaders reflect on their decisions and corresponding actions. They consider their own strengths and weaknesses with the goal of continuously improving their leadership skills. They accept responsibility for their decisions. While they frequently pass on compliments to their team you will never see them pass the buck.

Empathy. Authentic Leaders know that leadership comes from the heart. The relationships they develop with their teams can go very deep. They develop those relationships using empathy, listening skills and courage. 

Integrity. Strength of character is vital for an Authentic Leader. They say what they mean. People trust them because they honor their commitments. They work daily to earn the respect of their people. They understand that if their people can’t trust them then their people can’t follow them. 

Judgment. Authentic Leaders have great judgment. That doesn’t mean they are correct 100% of the time but they get the big decisions right. While making judgments about people they refrain from being judgmental. Authentic Leaders know the difference between the two. 

Listening Skills. Authentic Leaders know that can’t learn anything when they are talking. So they frequently listen more than they talk. They listen not only with open ears but with an open mind and an open heart. They are willing to consider ideas different from their own. They are willing to change their mind and their course when it makes sense. 

Consistency. Authentic Leaders are not fickle. They make principled decisions based on their Core Values. Their people know what to expect. They know that while they may not agree with every decision the decisions are made for the benefit of the team and organization, not only the leader. 

Vision. People want to know where they are being led. Authentic Leaders lead with purpose, vision and passion. They add value to the lives of the people they lead. Not only in their professional lives, but personal lives as well. They set high standards for themselves and the people they lead. They bring their vision to life in such a way that their people can see themselves in it. And they like what they see!

The greatest leadership “myth” of all is that a position or title makes someone a leader. Never never ever fool yourself into believing that myth. Leadership is serious stuff. It takes dedicated effort to develop yourself into an Authentic Leader. 

The rewards for helping people reach their full potential makes that effort very worthwhile. In fact, I’d challenge you to find one Authentic Leader who would say otherwise. And if they do they might just be fooling with ya. 

If You Just Don’t Care Then You Just Can’t Lead

I get asked often what the most important characteristic of leadership is. I determined that most people who asked that had already determined what it was. They wanted confirmation that the one of the characteristics they possessed was the most important. 

Many of the people asking were hoping humility wasn’t the most important. 

My answers to those questions put integrity at the top with judgement a very close second. I put integrity first because in my experience it was a lack of integrity that often caused otherwise sound judgement to go off the rails. But there are other almost as important characteristics for a leader to possess. 

A leader who is missing even a few of those characteristics, so long as integrity is present, can still lead. They will have some deficiencies but those can be overcome by strengths in other characteristics. 

But there is another characteristic of Authentic Leadership that doesn’t get the “ink” that it should. That characteristic is a caring heart. 

One of the truest bits of knowledge I know about Authentic Leadership is this… you can care for people without leading them but it is impossible to lead them without caring for them. 

If you do not care about other people then you cannot lead them. If you do not care about other people then you should not pretend to lead them. If you do not care about other people then you cannot lead…anyone. 

When one of the people who you are responsible for leading asks you for help how do you reply? With “I’m busy right now but as soon as I’m done I’ll help you.” Or with, How can I best help you now?” 

Are you willing to complete your work after you help someone else? Does your success matter more than the success of the people you lead? Do the people you lead get whatever time you have “left over” after you’ve taken care of your own needs? Have you discovered their strengths, hopes, goals and objectives outside of work? Do you see them as an individual or simply an employee? Are you more interested in what they can do for you than you are in what you can do for them? 

Have you ever even asked yourself those questions? 

This quote has been attributed to many people so I won’t attribute it to anyone, just know that it isn’t mine. The quote says “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” 

What are you doing to demonstrate that you care about the people you lead? What are you doing to show people in general that you care about them? One of the surest measures of Authentic Leadership is how the leader treats people who can do nothing for them. 

If you only care for people who can help you succeed then you’re missing the one characteristic of leadership that you must have in order to Authentically Lead.

Are You Too Concerned With Your Reputation?

I played hockey from about the time I could walk up until… well I’d play now if I could find the time and a sheet of ice. I played with a friend from Peewees right through high school. He was quite the character, whenever he would score a goal, even at 12 years old, he would yell bingo. So we called him Bingo.

We still call him Bingo today. Being a “character” tends to stay with you. So does actually having character. But only having character truly defines you. 

Lots of people, I’d say most people, are far more concerned with their reputation than they are their character. That’s a mistake. 

Here’s why.

Have you ever heard it said of someone “their reputation precedes them?” That’s often considered a compliment. Then when you meet them you’re surprised that they are not at all what you expected. It turned out their reputation was more mirage than fact. It’s not that their reputation was wrong, it was simply a representation of “what” people think they do, not “who” they are. 

Remember this, your reputation may precede you but your character is always attached to you. 

Your reputation can be more valuable than money, there’s no question about that. I suppose that’s why people focus so much on their reputation. What they don’t realize is that their reputation is built upon the foundation of their character. 

The words they speak and the actions they take come straight out of their character. Reputation is who people think you are, character is who you really are. You may be able to hide behind a good reputation for a while but your true character will eventually show itself.

People of good character have no need to hide any part of their life. They take care of their character and their reputation takes care of itself. Your character is reflective of the core values you hold. 

Character is within you. It is even more important than other factors like race, religion, age, and personality in determining how you react during life’s tougher circumstances. Your experiences in life may influence the character traits you have—but it is your character itself that determines how you act.

People can “know” your reputation without really knowing you. Character traits like integrity, courage, honesty, loyalty, and perseverance can only be seen by those who truly want to know you. 

Even people of good character can have a less than stellar reputation because other people’s opinions of you and their biases for you and against you can shape your reputation. That’s how reputations become a mirage, they are often made of opinions. Character is based upon actions.

So which are you more concerned with…your reputation or your character? Focus on the long term by focusing on your character. Your character will eventually build a solid reputation made from facts, not opinions.