The man of integrity walks securely, but he who takes crooked paths will be found out. He who winks maliciously causes grief, and a chattering fool comes to ruin.
—Proverbs 10:9-10 (NIV)
Integrity is a leader’s greatest asset when it comes to inspiring others to follow. Valuable because it’s a rare commodity in a fallen world and the business of taking people somewhere that benefits everyone.
Who among us trusts the word of a politician, a car mechanic, a salesman, or anyone else trying to separate us from our money or time invested in a cause that only benefits the one who takes from us? They chatter on about how rich, wise, or healthier we’ll become if we join or invest with them. They’ll wink with their eye and flatter us profusely as to how smart we’ll be for seeing the opportunity.
I get it. It’s marketing a product, a service, or an important cause that might be legitimate and beneficial. It’s how capitalism works, or how just causes move forward—both needing money and funding to accomplish the goal.
So, what does this have to do with leadership? In a world of just causes and legitimate products or services, you need reputable leaders to take you from idea to product to market to sales and to growth. The flim-flam, snake-oil type leader will fail because they lack integrity. Sooner or later, their lies, their cooked books, their exaggerated or padded sales tactics will soon be discovered by smart people who know flim-flam or proportionately distorted facts when they see it.
Once dishonesty is discovered in a leader, credibility tanks and their word is perceived as nothing but fluff. No one invests time or money into someone who is nothing but a fraudulent eye-winker. He or she is a cloud without rain, a fruit-tree with bad fruit, a braggart without brains, and a leader without followers or consumers.
In the world of leading an organization or business, integrity among the top-ranking officers is the greatest asset for drawing capital. Trust in the leadership of a company is costly, but effective, and is the best marketing tool you’ll have for acquiring new clients, investors or followers of your product, cause, or mission. The leader, company, or organization that’s unbending in their integrity will walk securely. They won’t have to remember a lie to make the next one consistent with the others they’ve told.
The adage, “honesty is the best policy,” is always the safest route to take. You can fail in the outcome of a great idea or project, and still save face if integrity guided the mission. But when failure comes by exaggerating the facts, hiding results, taking short cuts, not paying service or product vendors, you will have lost your greatest asset—trust from your team, trust from your consumers, trust from your follower-base, and trust from your investors.
Integrity is costly, but you can sleep at night and still have someone following your lead or buying your services or products tomorrow. There’s no moral grief, no ruin, and no remorse for the leader who consistently walks in integrity.
A sterling reputation is better than striking it rich. —Proverbs 22:1 (The Message)