“I heard what they said. I'll believe it when I see it.”
“You can say that again.”
—Conversation between two employees after a communication meeting
The greatest single impact on long-term, positive leadership is integrity…the glue that holds all relationships together. Integrity is even more important than being a great communicator. People will go out of their way to avoid communicating with those they do not trust—you are wasting each others' time if there is no trust. Integrity is more important than being charismatic. People will eventually see through charming charisma. The truth will eventually be exposed.
People will begin evaluating your trustworthiness as soon as they meet you. The first question everyone has is “Can I trust this person?” Without trust, no one will take a risk for you. Competence is important, but it matters most after trust has been established.
Many times along your leadership journey you will face an integrity test. It may involve your career, family, or a personal decision…but temptation to sacrifice your integrity will come. It will probably appear like a pop quiz, when you least expect it. That is not a pleasant thought, even if you think you are prepared for it.
Adhering to a foundation of integrity is the most important job of a great leader. You can't lead anyone else farther than they are willing to follow you. If you lose your integrity, you have a chance of losing everything.