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Saturday, 2nd December 2023



When leaders walk their talk, they become trusted, admired and even sometimes, worshipped. However, when leaders do not match their actions with their words, or change their tune with the flavour of the month, they loose resonance and respect. Steven Covey in his global bestseller, 'Seven Habits of Highly Effective People', explains at the end that the most critical factor of all is integrity. Without integrity, any habit on its own will not have a lasting impact.

 And the thing about integrity is, it cannot be manufactured. It has to come from the inside. Yes, and this is also where spiritual beliefs and having a 'conscience' become very important. Some of the greatest leaders of all time have been motivated by this - for example Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Abraham Lincoln, Nelson Mandela - all have a sense of deep conviction about truth and morality. This means that leaders need to be emotionally intelligent and sensitive, and to value the sincerity and honesty of others, not exploit them. For business, this implies that financial performance should not always override decision-making. And organisations do not develop a memory, and often just squeeze people when they need them, and leave them dry after they have been used. Integrity requires a respect for identity, history and heritage. And it should never be taught as a formula in a seminar.

In the modern day, especially in business, integrity is not given importance, especially in the Western world. One reason for this is that it cannot be measured, defined, regulated or scientifically tested or proven. It is a 'soft' quality, and cannot easily be taught in an MBA class or one-day executive course. As a result, leaders who were admired and awed for a long time, suddenly crumble due to spin, fraud or mis-management. Eventually, the truth comes out.

What also results for those who have integrity and honesty is 'accidental' leadership. They do not intend necessarily to lead, but become leaders out of default, because people trust and respect them. People want them to lead and inspire them. It is also proven by history that many good leaders are driven or motivated by faith of some form. The modern view that business leaders should not show their faith, or at best keep it private, may not be wise.

Article added on 15th December 2009 at 10:35am