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.
As leader, you are the key. If you are a person of integrity, you will be trusted, and “trust has been shown to be the most significant predictor of individuals’ satisfaction with their organization.”
Integrity and trust are inseparable—one cannot exist without the other. According to Charles O’Reilly and Karlene Roberts,
Leaders who build trusting relationships within their team are willing to consider alternative viewpoints and to make use of other people’s expertise and abilities. They feel comfortable with the group and are willing to let others exercise influence over group decisions. In contrast, managers in a distrustful environment often take a self-protective posture. They’re directive and hold tight the reins of power. Those who work for such managers are likely to pass the distrust on by withholding and distorting information.
In a research study several groups of business executives were asked to be involved in a role-playing exercise. The groups were given identical factual information about a difficult policy decision, and then they were asked to solve a problem related to that decision. Half of the groups were briefed to expect trusting behavior from the members of their group; the other half were told to expect untrusting behavior (“You cannot openly express feelings or differences with members of your group”).
After thirty minutes of discussion, each group member as well as those who had observed the role playing completed a questionnaire. The responses were in harmony with each other: The discussions among members in the high-trust group were significantly more positive than the discussions among members of the low-trust group. In fact, people in the low-trust group who tried to be open and honest were virtually ignored. Hostility was caused by a mere suggestion, and it quickly spread throughout the group. The people in the low-trust groups realized that the lack of trust kept them from high achievement. They did not feel free to be vulnerable due to the actions and rejection of other group members.
Here are some findings on the high-trust group:
- Members were more open about their feelings.
- Members experienced greater clarity of thinking.
- Members searched for more alternative courses of action.
- Members reported greater levels of mutual influence on outcomes.
The high-trust group opened the gate of personal vulnerability, and the result was a better team and a model of integrity-based leadership.
When people do not trust one another, it is difficult for the organization to succeed and for the people within the organization to feel completely fulfilled. People who feel trusted and who trust their leaders are more satisfied, and their work environment is less stressful. There exists a feeling of openness and confidence and a greater ability for people to believe they can take risks.