When you think of the term “leader,” what words come to mind?
As a young professional, there are many individuals I look to as leaders. Some of these individuals are my peers and others are individuals who currently fill or have filled a more supervisory role in my life. As I observe these individuals, I notice there is one thing they all have in common – integrity.
When I was younger, I used to think of a leader as someone who was a great public speaker, charismatic, and laden with accolades because of his or her outward success. While these attributes may describe some great leaders, these outward attributes do not make a leader great. What makes a leader truly great is the internal virtue of integrity that may or may not be apparent in a first encounter.
Great leaders are leaders who:
Apologize with courage.
Saying “I’m sorry” takes courage. We all make mistakes. True leaders who possess integrity own up to their actions and don’t shy away from admitting they were wrong. To some, this may seem counterintuitive because they associate the need to apologize with weakness, but from my observation, the strongest leaders are those who fully recognize their weaknesses.
Mean what they say.
Have you ever had someone congratulate you on an accomplishment and felt like the only reason they congratulated you was because other people were watching and doing so made the “congratulator” look good? A leader with integrity is genuine in the way he or she responds to the successes (and failures) of those they associate with.
Do what they say.
Leaders follow through on what they say they are going to do, regardless of whether or not anyone is watching. Leaders are promise keepers. If a leader says he or she will take some time in the afternoon to think about a resolution to a problem faced by a team member, the leader does just that.
I think it can be easy for us in our busy lives to “talk the talk” of a leader as we legitimately do our best to meet the obligations placed before us, but the day we become great leaders is the day we learn to “walk the walk” – to apologize with courage, mean what we say, and do what we say.