Leadership: real world examples of integrity

July 15th, 2011 by Slabs | Print Leadership: real world examples of integrity

Pick up any leadership book and one of the critical elements it will reference is integrity and honesty. It seems common sense, actually most of the tenets of leadership aren’t complicated, but nothing hits home like a real world example.

In a previous job I had direct access to the CEO. I admired him as well as the leadership team. However, the gloss began to wear off when the GM of my division was let go. I was told that major changes were underway, things would move quickly, and I would succeed him as GM. People at the company, including the CEO, knew I had aspirations of moving up and taking on greater responsibilities.

A few months passed and instead of gaining the new title of GM, our CEO announced informally that I would run the business unit “2 in the box” with the business manager. No title change, no promotion, and now confusion ensued between myself and the other manager as to what our roles were.

Between the two of us, we allocated who should do what to absorb the responsibilities of our departed GM. Neither of us received pay increases or title changes. I felt let down by the CEO. He had taken the time to speak directly with me about the upcoming changes and then reneged.

It was easy and it felt good to tell me what I wanted to hear. However, when he couldn’t or wouldn’t follow through, I lost my confidence in him as a leader. I began to question his integrity. I began to wonder about other issues plaguing the company. For example, we had a hosting company who returned our servers with no notice. When we received them back they were incorrectly configured, such that we couldn’t get the data off them.

I pressed our CIO and legal counsel to threaten suit if the hosting company would not send us the config documentation. My requests went unanswered. Later I found out that we had stopped paying our bill to the hosting company. At first I assumed it was an oversight on the part of the operations manager. But after my experiences I began to wonder if our CEO and top management knew about the lack of payment and were trying to squeeze out a few months of free rent.

I also found out from a colleague that he had a similar experience where the CEO had taken him aside and promised a promotion that never came. I don’t want to work at a company with ‘loose’ ethics. Ultimately I would end up leaving, fearing that the future of the company was in peril when a major division of the company began missing it’s revenue goals.

The CEO did not have to promise me anything or tell me what I wanted to hear. I would have continued diligently working and putting in my time. However, once a promise has been made, it must be kept. Failure to do so shows a lack of integrity, and your team will begin to question your leadership, commitment, and ethics. Once that happens morale falls, productivity decreases, turnover increases, and the ship begins to sink.

Honesty is hard. It takes courage to tell it like it is, especially when things are bad. It’s easy to tell people what they want to hear. However, being honest gains you respect and the willingness of others to follow you, even when the going gets tough.


1 Comments For This Post

  1. tough ethics Says:

    I can empathize with this story. I have been in a similar situation with a boss who promises me things that are never delivered, AND I also discovered that the boss was making similar types of promises to other people. I don’t know why this is a common issue in the workplace, but I feel like this type of management style isn’t talked about enough. This is definitely a retention issue. Thanks for sharing!

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