Demonstrating Integrity: A Key Characteristic of the Future Global Leader, By Marshall Goldsmith
At a time when shredding documents, creative accounting and ruthless tactics come to light in the media on a fairly regular basis, it's no surprise that the young leaders of today have spotted the need for leaders to demonstrate integrity and ethical behavior. As a matter of fact, young leaders of today believe that demonstrating integrity will become the most important characteristic of future leaders.1
What Is Integrity?
"Integrity is the quality of possessing and adhering to high moral principles or professional standards."2 In other words, it's not enough to simply espouse values; global leaders have the added responsibility of influencing through example.
Indeed, events in the business arena involving companies such as Enron and WorldCom have illustrated how integrity lapses can lead even "benchmark companies" into bankruptcy. These unfortunate negative public examples of integrity violations have clearly made the business case for including integrity as a key quality of the leader of the future.
The next question you will probably have is: How do I (or do I already) demonstrate integrity? Following are five significant characteristics of demonstrating integrity as well as some (but not all!) actions you can take to demonstrate integrity.3
One characteristic that demonstrates integrity is to behave honestly and practice ethical behavior in your interactions. You can accomplish this by:
- Recognizing that you are a model for those whom you lead
- Being consistent and clear about your ethical standards
- Providing facts, not smokescreens
- Speaking up even when it may be risky to do so
- Challenging any system that encourages dishonesty or rewards unethical behavior
A second characteristic that demonstrates integrity is to ensure that the highest standards for ethical behavior are practiced throughout the organization. You can do this by:
- Being consistent and clear about ethical standards and expectations
- Encouraging people to express concerns about questionable practices
- Reviewing ethical concerns with your staff or management
- Offering open, candid feedback to management and coworkers
- Recognizing that honesty and fairness in all relations with others is important
A third characteristic that demonstrates integrity is to avoid political and self-serving behavior. You can demonstrate this by:
- Understanding that being competent in your job is the most effective method of achieving success
- Realizing that organizational politics take many forms; list the tactics you are aware of
- Sharing recognition; not accepting undue credit
- Combating job politics through objective measurements of performance
A fourth characteristic that demonstrates integrity is to courageously stand up for what you believe in. You can do this by:
- Understanding that risk taking plays a part in nearly every decision made
- Being willing to take risks to achieve excellence and stay competitive
- Developing a positive attitude when facing objections
- Working to gain support and cooperation from key individuals in your organization
- Encouraging and supporting others to speak up and voice their viewpoints
The fifth characteristic that demonstrates integrity is to be a role model for living the organization's values. You can accomplish this by:
- Walking the talk: be an example of what you want your employees to be
- Being sure your performance reflects the best standards
- Acknowledging the unique knowledge and talents of others
- Demonstrating pride in your company
- Coaching employees to follow your example of performing to high standards
People will not follow leaders whom they do not trust. Great leaders, trusted leaders demonstrate integrity and in doing so, achieve the faith and confidence of their workers, colleagues and peers, who then become willing followers, loyal employees and trusted coworkers. This important characteristic is an integral step on the road to success for the great leaders of the future.
1 Goldsmith, M., et al. 2003. Global Leadership: The Next Generation. New Jersey: Prentice Hall. (See pages 311-316 for more about the Global Leader of the Future Project.)
2Encarta Dictionary [computer software]. 2008. Redmond, WA: Microsoft
3 Goldsmith, M., et al. 2003. Global Leadership: The Next Generation. New Jersey: Prentice Hall.
This article first appeared in Business Coaching Worldwide (June Issue 2008, Volume 4, Issue 2). Copyright © 2011 WABC Coaches Inc. All rights reserved.
If you wish to reproduce this article in any material form, you must first contact WABC for permission.
Posted by Marshall Goldsmith
Upon first read, you might be confused as to why Emory asks this ambiguous prompt that not only demands an answer but also requires you to interpret the question. As we mentioned before, Emory is a leading research university that seeks to pioneer technological and social developments in this world. In an era in which society is changing more rapidly than ever before and norms for moral conduct are becoming more muddled, Emory University wants to ensure that its students are leaders in innovation with a concrete set of moral principles. This essay is your opportunity to discuss the ethics by which you live your life.
Let’s try to further simplify this prompt. The keywords here are: social media, engage, and integrity.
The meaning of the word integrity can be roughly divided into two aspects: wholeness, and moral principles. The first step to this prompt is defining what the word integrity means to you. How do you keep your moral principles “intact?” In other words, how do you ensure that you (and/or others) do not violate the code of moral conduct of which you value?
To get you started, consider the following questions:
- What kind of treatment of another person is unacceptable to you?
- How do you avoid treating other people like that in everyday life?
- What would would you do ( or do you do) if you witness a person treating another in such unacceptable way?
- Why do you find this behavior especially unacceptable?
- What kind of treatment of another person seems especially kind to you?
- Why do you think of this behavior as especially kind?
Once you have nailed down what integrity means to you by analyzing the answers to these considerations, explain how your code of moral conduct applies in the world of social media, where people with malicious intent can hide behind the veil of anonymity. Emory wants to see how you aspire to promote morality and honesty in a world where information is exchanged very rapidly, and matter-of-factly.
Also, while this prompt addresses a broader social issue, it asks that you discuss the topic in the context of you. So you must tie your essay back to your own sentiments, actions, and experiences in the digital world.
Be careful to not get too political or controversial with this topic. Ultimately, this is an admissions essay and the officers are more interested in hearing what integrity means to you, and how you propose to adhere to it in environments (social media) where it might be tempting to not follow such high moral standards.
Keep in mind that this essay, like the others, allows a maximum of 150 words. So, be sure to be concise and lucid in your response.
We here at CollegeVine wish you good luck with your Emory University application!
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