Integrity: Harnessing the Soul of Great Leadership

manandsunriseI can think of no characteristic that represents the heart and soul of what it means to be a great leader more than Integrity. It is defined as the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles. Leaders with integrity lead by example and inspire confidence in others. Leaders without integrity lead with fear and dominate others. To me honesty is part of integrity the same way sales is part of marketing. You cannot have one without the other, although somehow they feel more like cousins than siblings. As you will see integrity is also woven into the fabric of leadership in a way that makes it interdependent with other qualities of great leaders. 

The greatness of a man is not in how much wealth he acquires, but in his integrity and his ability to affect those around him positively. ~ Bob Marley

Here are some ways to lead with integrity and become a leader of service and value:

1. Be Authentic.

Learning to be true to yourself can be harder that you think. We are all bombarded by voices both from the outside world and our own inner voices. Our heads are filled with with voices of our superiors, our spouses, our parents, our haters and our mentors. Add to that the technical jargon you probably use in your industry and it’s hard to sound human enough to really connect with people soul-to-soul.

To find your own true authentic leadership voice amid all the clutter of the noise is one of the great challenges of your life. ~ Narges Nirumvala

2. Be Guided by a Strong Moral Compass.

The decisions and choices we make behind closed doors when no one is looking define the fabric of our character. Your moral compass should be able to distinguish right from wrong and good from evil. You should also be honest and direct. Do you remember the Jim Carrey Film ‘Liar Liar’? Well if you do, you’ll know that being honest all the time can be surprisingly difficult. But if more often then not, you can be guided by your moral compass and can be honest with those around you, then your integrity will grow.

Honesty is a very expensive gift, Don’t expect it from cheap people.~ Warren Buffet

3. Align Your Vision With Your Values.

Your vision and values should work in conjunction with each other like two hands playing a grand piano. But for many people that’s not the case. Often their values are an after thought, something thought up in branding exercise with a advertising agency to put on the website. Go beyond the branding exercise and actually live your values. 

Your vision helps you chart the course and your values guide you through the storms along the way. ~ Narges Nirumvala

4. Listen to Understand The Needs of Others.

Sometimes the best way to get to know other people is to ask and listen. Don’t over power them or tell them they’re wrong or could do it another way. Don’t go into a coaching or correcting moment. Just listen and learn. Switch off your need to lead and be human for a moment. Get to know them as a peer and see how it changes your perspective of them. Actually hear what they are saying without judgement. 

5. Make People Feel Important.

One of the most powerful skills you have as a leader is to make other people on your team and in your organization feel important. Make them feel big, even if it means you feel small. It only has to be for an instant; one conversation is all it takes and see how the light of confidence shines out of their eyes right from their soul.

Great leaders balance humility and courage. They are fearless in battle and humble in victory. ~ Narges Nirumvala

6. Put Purpose Before Profit.

Honour the why and the how. Purpose and process must come before profit if you want to be a leader of integrity. Don’t cut corners or sacrifice quality. What difference are you making in the world? What big problem does your company solve? How are you making people’s lives better? Answer the big questions and make sure those answers resonate with you before you glorify another quarter of record breaking profits.

To maximize purpose without sacrificing profit, you need to focus on two things – impact and excellence. ~ Narges Nirumvala

7. Find Joy in Helping Others.

I know there’s a trend right now towards corporate social responsibility and even social entrepreneurship, both of which are good things. I often ask myself if these companies really care about making a difference or if it’s more about branding and increasing profits by appealing to the consumer’s need to believe business isn’t all about money? Perhaps I’m a little too cynical. Perhaps the reason why shouldn’t even make a difference. What do you think? Giving enriches your soul in a way that it’s hard for me to describe in writing. To feel it for yourself, you must be on the front line of generosity, not just do it through your CSR Department. Actually give of your time and talents, don’t just attend the big ticket galas with their massive tax receipts. 

Generosity builds compassion and empathy, because it forces it out of your comfort zone and into other people’s lives and struggles. It makes you to look at the problems of the world and not just change the channel. ~ Narges Nirumvala

8. Speak With Kindness.

Kindness is often underrated as a leadership quality, but I value it highly. If a person of importance can show kindness it puts them in a different league to me. Learn to be considerate and value the people around you. Kindness is expressed in your tone of voice, the way you make eye contact, in your gestures and even your smile. Kindness in leadership is serving the needs of others rather than the demands of your own heart.

Kindness in words creates confidence. Kindness in thinking creates profoundness. Kindness in giving creates love. ~ Lao Tzu

I want to leave you with a quote by Zig Ziglar, he says “With integrity, you have nothing to fear, since you have nothing to hide. With integrity, you will do the right thing, so you will have no guilt.” Leaders today have to live in glass houses and be transparent and accountable for everything they say and do. So honesty and integrity have become qualities that are vital for survival. But don’t do the right thing just because everyone is watching you, do it because it makes you feel good and makes the world a better place. The world needs more leaders of strong moral character who do the right thing even when no one is looking.


IMG_6424Lo_croppedNarges Nirumvala is the CEO of ExecutiveSpeak Coaching International and a world-renowned leadership communication expert. Dubbed ‘The Secret Weapon’ by one journalist, she is an international keynote speaker, award winning entrepreneur, executive speech coach and author of the public speaking and presentation skills book “Capture the Spotlight”.  Her clients include executives and leadership teams from Fortune 500 and FT 500 companies. She was selected one of the Top 100 Leadership Experts to Follow on Twitter and is a featured writer on the LinkedIn ‘Leadership & Management’ Channel. Inquire about her services here.