Integrity is defined as, “the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles.” It’s a characteristic that’s getting harder and harder to find in today’s business climate, but that doesn’t mean it’s not something worth striving for in your own professional life. Particularly if you own your own company or are in a position of leadership, integrity should be something you actively consider every day.
So, what does leading your business with integrity mean today? Here are a few ways to be the boss without compromising your morals.
First, you’ve got to know what you stand for.
It’s impossible to expect something from other people you don’t even know to expect from yourself. Spend some time identifying the qualities you respect in other leaders and just in people in general. Odds are, things like honesty, dependability, and trustworthiness all stick out. Try to define the three characteristics you’d like to be described as and actively work towards those goals every single day.
Second, communicate more openly with your staff.
Sometimes it’s hard to strike the right balance between keeping professional information on a need-to-know basis and being an open book. When in doubt, always be overly honest with your employees. They’ll appreciate knowing exactly what you expect from them and where specific projects stand even if the initial conversation is awkward. When addressing something difficult, aim to be kind but don’t feel the need to sugarcoat. It’s business, and being upfront is part of what breeds integrity.
Next, actively encourage the people you’re leading.
Part of being a leader with integrity is knowing how to give praise and rewarding behavior that deserves it. People are far more likely to work harder and more loyally for you if they know you notice and appreciate the work – compare this to the negative work environment the fear of reprimand creates. Dole out deserved praise in an open, honest manner and don’t be shy about recognizing people who’s work isn’t as obvious but is equally important.
Then, remember that being the boss comes with responsibility.
It’s tempting to want to be the “cool boss,” particularly if you’re close in age or life-stage to those you manage. You should be warm, friendly, and not all business all the time, but you need to draw a line between you and your employees. Never, ever make them feel like they’re less important than you are but watch how you act around them. Don’t drink too much at company functions or use inappropriate language at the office because you’re all so familiar with one another. Being the boss with integrity means having to accept that you’ll never be the most fun person in the office.
Finally, always hold yourself to the same standards you set for your staff.
This is the golden rule of leading with integrity. In every conversation, project, and task, perform the function as if everyone is watching whether they are or not. The power (and veil) that comes with being the boss can be intoxicating but it should never change the way you behave if you want to garner respect. Employees will work more happily for a leader who holds himself to the same high-measures he explicitly says he wants from them. And rest assured if you’re hiding something, they will eventually find out.
Being honest, saying what you mean, and standing by your commitments should be a given in business. Integrity is all these things, of course, but it’s more than that too. It’s knowing that being the boss doesn’t mean you can get away with more without repercussions…it’s accepting that leading means working harder and with more self-induced criticism than anyone else.
Ryan Currie is a product manager at BizShark.com, with 5 years experience in online marketing and product development. In addition to web related businesses, he also enjoys the latest news and information on emerging technologies and open source projects.