A leader with integrity makes everyone who follows him or her successful. Leadership with integrity—the purest form of leadership—allows us to follow a person as much as an idea. Leaders with integrity bring out the best in the hearts of those who wish to give themselves to the dream. They allow the followers to become dream participants.
Integrity requires that a leader’s private life be integrated with their public life—their insides match their outsides. They do not spend time practicing appearances in public, and then find a place to “get away” so they can be themselves. Leaders aren’t actors, they are living their calling.
Integrity in a leader is a capacity for and a focus on:
- Living the truth
- Pursuing the good
- Doing what is right
A leader with integrity lives their life in that order. The truth of the heart envisioned the dream in the first place. Pursuing the good is what the idea was envisioned to bring about in the first place. The action of doing what is right is how the dream stays on track and the good is accomplished.
A leader follows a compelling idea that is bigger than one’s self with their hands, head, and heart. Their passion for the vision is something he or she simply must follow. This passion makes the leader, ironically, the first follower. In as much, the leader knows what it is to follow and knows what a follower or “fellow risk taker” experiences.
Because the vision is bigger than the leader, he or she has a need for help. They offer an invitation for others to participate (follow) in helping the vision come to fruition. They are asking others to risk dreams, trust, and vulnerability in the hope that the vision can actually take flight. A follower risks their heart to believe that the first follower (leader) is someone they can trust, not someone who simply wants to use them for their talents. For the follower to give heart, they must believe that the leader has heart.
People who follow are not looking for perfection. They are looking for care, nurturance, guidance, and accountability as they move towards achieving the vision. They look to an imperfect human being who has passionately committed himself or herself to something the followers are likewise called to follow. Therefore, they want to know if the leader is staying on course in three areas and in a specific order:
- Does the leader live the truth? Do they remember their own humanity and walk in the humility of a follower?
- Does the leader pursue the good? Does the dream stay alive through the leader’s passion, purpose, and continual planning?
- Does the leader do what is right? Does the leader follow a code of conduct that is grounded in the truth and in pursuit of the good?