Before Peter Parker—the superhero Spider-Man—went public with his newfound superpowers, he had a heart-to-heart conversation with his Uncle Ben. Sitting in the car, Uncle Ben admonished, “These are the years when a man becomes the man he’s going to be for the rest of his life. Just be careful who you change into. You’re feeling this great power, and with great power comes great responsibility.”
Although these are fictional characters, Uncle Ben’s advice was sound: Be careful what you become.
Stephen Covey’s insights on staying consistent to a vision are well known but deserve repetition. He writes:
[To] “begin with the end in mind” is to begin today with the image, picture, or paradigm of the end of your life as your frame of reference or the criterion by which everything else is examined.… By keeping that end clearly in mind, you can make certain that whatever you do on any particular day does not violate criteria you have defined as supremely important, and that each day of your life contributes in a meaningful way to the vision you have of your life as a whole.
Peter Drucker describes the “mirror test” in which leaders make sure that the person they see in the mirror in the morning is the kind of person they want to be, the kind of person they can respect and believe in. If there is a lack of consistency between our public and private lives, then eventually we will be unable to manage the divide. Integrity will crumble. We read of far too many leaders who have fallen as the truth about their private lives has emerged.
Living a “whole” life means doing things in a way that is consistent with our values and vision. It means standing firm on tough issues and making difficult choices. In a word, it means integrity. Here are three ways to reach that goal.
Bold acts issue from a person who has unshakable confidence. That confidence comes from knowing the principles that guide your life and knowing that these principles will lead to integrity.
It is important to know the values and principles that drive your behavior. Only then will you have the confidence to act boldly in spite of peer pressure or prevailing opinions.
Leaders who want a total quality life seek to act boldly when faced with compromising decisions and actions. They have no fear because they fall back on their values and their deep need to live a life of integrity and trust.
Exhibit a great attitude
Another path to integrity as a “whole” existence is to approach all you do with a joyful, positive, uplifting mind-set. The pursuit of integrity requires what is best and noble in your character. You can’t afford the defeating, polluting influence of a negative outlook.
Performance specialist Dr. Bob Rotella writes about golf, yet his insights translate to leadership as well: “Standing on the tee and thinking about your drive going to the target doesn’t guarantee that it will go there. It only enhances the chances. [By contrast] Negative thinking is almost 100 percent effective.”
To succeed in business or any other challenge, we must maintain a great attitude. No matter what the obstacle or opposition, successful leaders believe they can overcome and win the battle. Their mind-set influences their performance, and there is no substitute for a positive outlook.
Understandably, it is hard to have a positive perspective when we are weighed down by doubts about our own character. When we’re one person in the mirror and another person to our employees, we’re divided and out of sync. When we—or others—question our integrity, it’s difficult to not allow doubt to overshadow our attitude and performance.
Integrity and trust are interwoven like two strands in a tightly wound cord. It’s really impossible to have one quality without the other. How do you become a person others trust?
In the organizational setting in particular, trustworthiness is based on both character—what you are—and competence—how well you do what you do. It is quite possible to have one quality and not the other. If you have confidence in my character but consider me woefully incompetent at my job, you may like me but not trust me.
Trustworthy people are dependable and consistent; their actions and lifestyles set an example of integrity and competence.
Building trust takes time. We can trust others and gain their trust when certain qualities are present, but we also need to remember that years of baggage associated with our personal lives, our leadership style, and how we do things can get in the way. Therefore, patience and understanding become necessary allies as we sort through our lives and seek to trust others.