“When it comes to our [fill in the blank], we put safety first” goes the phrase. Whether it is retailers talking to their customers, corporations talking to their employers, school districts talking to the families of their students, any organization, for-profit or not, grabs hold of this ubiquitous and unqualified guarantee as soon as fears of any sort rear their ugly head among their income base. So much so that one wonders if policies and procedures have categorically been put in place to back up such promises or if it is pronounced only because there is no other ‘right’ policy: if people don’t feel safe, they’re out! Lack of basic security for one’s life and one’s health is a deal-breaker; people won’t stick around to see what you actually have to offer if you can’t at least grant them this.
I wish the same were the case for leadership. One would think that before competence, charisma, stature, and flare even have a chance, the public would insist on integrity. Integrity first! ‘We don’t care how much you’ve boosted sales if you emotionally abuse your workers on a daily basis.’ ‘Don’t tell us about your ratings until you explain why you’re never in your office!’ ‘You don’t have the right to lecture us about wellness when your own family won’t even speak to you.’ While such calls may be heard in the lunchroom, plenty of leadership is not evaluated by integrity; you really can get away with murder as a leader. At least for a while.
Rather than try to pick on high profile leaders which could easily be scrutinized for cracks in their integrity, I’d rather focus on my own. You see, integrity builds trust. Just as customers might just take a chance on you when they at least feel safe, so potential followers may consider following you if, as a leader, you at least show yourself consistent. Even if they do, if you’re not, their time with you may be short.
Here’s my checklist for integrity:
Am I right with my Creator? Does my life align with His?
Am I reconciled with my wife? Are there any residual issues we have not resolved?
Am I taking care of myself – physically, socially, financially, spiritually? If I am not fit in mind, body, and soul, what am I pretending to give away?
Am I taking care of my family? If someone looked at my family, would they see health or ill-will? Have I done everything I can to heal the latter?
Are my accounts in good order? Not easy during this pandemic, but am I on the right track? If an auditor looked at my books, what would she say?
Is my temper in check? Am I prepared to respond appropriately in any situation?
Do I have a positive attitude?
Can people count on me to follow through on my promises?
Do I fight evil with good, or with evil?
Do I take criticism and feedback well?
Am I generally interested in the welfare of the whole?
Is my heart in the right place?
The next three months could prove excruciating for the engaged American citizen. For the combination of pandemic, civil unrest, economic uncertainty, and a high-stakes election, we will need everything we’ve got to function well; don’t expect things to get easier before they get better. As we prepare ourselves for this crucible, shouldn’t we first put our own house in order? Shouldn’t we put integrity first?