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Integrity and Humility in Business Leadership

Updated on April 18, 2016

Humility requires candid self-assessment.

Effective leaders maintain a solid footing as they climb the ladder of success. This footing is built on the essential value of integrity. Integrity in this sense includes honesty, doing what you say you will do, and remaining consistent in all decisions and operations with your stated goals and guiding principles. Successful leaders who operate from a base of high integrity are also likely to exhibit another very strong principle, humility. Unfortunately, too many people incorrectly associate humility with softness, or weakness.

To be humble as a leader means being completely candid in assessing your own capabilities, strengths, weaknesses and mistakes. Humility has nothing to do with self-doubt, introvert or shy behavior or reticent decision-making attitudes. Instead, humility and integrity necessitates tremendous fortitude of personality. Humility removes the individual from the problem and focuses on the business problem and mission instead. Moreover, humility helps leaders to recognize the value of other people who play an important role in their success. Successful leaders who demonstrate humility and integrity are highly respected by the people who support them.

Building loyalty and Trust

This respect builds loyalty and trust, which are vital ingredients to resolving new challenges. Leaders who somehow reach the top after years of treating people with disrespect and using them for their own personal gain have a very weak foundation. Given the first opportunity, those people will bolt to avoid the crisis rather than helping the leader who needs them more than ever. The leader has taught them that he is only in this game for himself with no loyalty to the team.

The truth is, everybody sees through the endless promotion of him or herself by a narcissistic leader. Indeed, all that this promotion will accomplish is to cement further the poor impression that already exists. Being a superior leader is something that all of the followers experience and no amount of telling or promoting will change what they experience. Recognizing the contributions of others to your success earns their respect and loyalty and motivates them to continue supporting you. You will also gain the voices of all of your followers as promoters – word of mouth from the people who actually experience your leadership is a very powerful asset.

Ask the team to help solve the problem.

No leader can be perfect in all aspects of their work. Rather than hiding weakness and mistakes, a strong leader will acknowledge them. This is the first step to being humble. The leader then finds other people with strengths to complement the weaknesses or to correct the mistakes. This does not mean making a public display of admitting you are a failure for making mistakes. It is about focusing on the best way to solve the problem, learn from the mistake and move on. When a mistake is made – and it will be – remain committed to the objective and ask the team to help you move forward. The loyalty and trust you build will create the strongest footing for you to lean on as you take each step up the ladder of your success.


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