There are so many virtues that make us who we are, they are all important parts of our story. And, the strength of each of our virtues, determine the most important aspect of leadership, who will follow us, and how far.
Recently the importance of integrity as a leader, in everything we do, has been driven home to me by some people I have met. I am the first to admit that nobody is perfect and that we can all make mistakes, but the mistakes we make can cost us. I started to work with someone a while ago and in the first projects we worked together in we saw eye to eye all the way. Suddenly, a new project (very similar to the first) and he became a new person. Things that made complete sense suddenly became vague and decisions were made that simply did not make sense.
Things became quite uncomfortable, and when I started to ask questions, suddenly I was no longer needed in the project. It was all a bit odd really, and very much added to the confusion of the whole situation. It was like a crazy nightmare, where all sorts of bad things are happening around us but you are the only person who could see it and everyone else is in your face telling you everything is okay, nothing is wrong! Something inside you tells you to scream, jump up and down and tell everyone that they are mad.
But this is the thing with integrity. It is not something that you can let slip in one area, no matter how small that area, and pretend nothing is wrong. It is an important link in a chain that connects you to your all others. Other well-known links of this leadership chain include respect, vision, moral standing and, but not exclusive to, inspiration. When one of these links are dropped from the chain, you inevitably lose some followers, and depending on the priority your followers place on the 'link', the more followers you risk losing.
In the situation I was in, all I could do was to continue doing what I knew was right and unfortunately, wait for it to implode.
In all situations in life, I am not responsible for what others learn from situations, but I am responsible for what ai can learn! When it comes to integrity, it was a great lesson to me that if/when my integrity is ever questioned, even in one area of my leadership or personal life I know that people will have questions about ALL of who I am.
Also, we need to learn to ask the hard questions of people early on, when we first have questions about their integrity or motivation. Give them an opportunity to prove our hunches wrong! But when people do get it wrong we need to learn from the situation and get on with it. Maybe leaders can learn a bit from politicians, many of them seem to be masters in destroying and rebuilding their integrity in an instance (at least that is what they think).
Keep calm and carry on!