Organizational Integrity: Vulnerability

by Ron

The makeup of organizational integrity

For the next few Monday posts, I want to provide some snapshots into what makes up organizational integrity.

To have a great organization, integrity must be widespread. It won’t do to be a saintly leader of highest integrity if the rest of the team consists of liars, backbiters, and thieves. Integrity must exist from top to bottom. There are some key qualities that need to be modeled by leadership in order for an organization to embrace integrity.

This week we’ll start with Vulnerability.


A leader who is approachable, available, and open to other ideas, thoughts, and even criticism has learned to be a humble person and further develops his or her integrity.

Executives often overlook the power of vulnerability. They confuse vulnerability with being weak. Too often, and for whatever reason (fear, circumstances, office politics, and so on), leaders build walls around themselves. They add one brick at a time until one day they become walled off from their people and their peers. The walls give them protection, but at the same time, the walls hide them from the harsh realities that confront every leader and keep them from communicating effectively. They are insulated and protected, but they are also cut off from others. Behind the walls, they can control and be hidden from failure. Behind the walls, they do not need to trust others or be vulnerable.

Gates, instead of walls, give others access to leaders, which enables leaders to demonstrate that they are trustworthy, open, and humble. Gates also allow leaders to share their visions and values with others. Open gates allow leaders to be vulnerable, to let go, and to trust others, which in turn builds others’ trust in their leaders.

Abraham Lincoln made himself accessible to people as often as he could. He listened to them, cried with them, and found out about the war campaign from them. His habit of wandering around and listening to others offers an important management lesson. Donald Phillips writes,

If subordinates, or people in general, know that they genuinely have easy access to their leader, they’ll tend to view the leader in a more positive, trustworthy light. “Hey,” the followers think, “this guy
really wants to hear from me—to know what I think and what’s really going on. He must be committed to making things work!” And so Lincoln was.

Once a leader takes this step of vulnerability, others will give back, and an effective team can be built on interpersonal integrity.

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