Flip Flippen: Integrity Is the Leadership Advantage

What if there was a competitive advantage that you and many others often overlook? It’s not related to a certain degree or training, nor is it about time management or managerial skills.

It’s a trait we’re familiar with, but few of us have truly mastered: integrity.

Do you think that integrity and honesty are a competitive advantage in today’s marketplace? Last week, I sat with many of the leaders of Wall Street as this was discussed in a very candid format. The answer was a resounding YES! Every person on the panel agreed that integrity and honesty were an advantage.

You may ask, “How can this possibly be true in today’s markets?” Well, let me share with you some of what we discussed and see if you think there are some essential truths to the points.

If you were investing money, would you want someone who was honest and forthright about where they were putting your money to invest your pension funds and savings? Would you want them to be clear about the fees and charges that were being assessed to your accounts? Would you want to know how they, as your money manager, are receiving incentives and bonuses for performance?

Is integrity and honesty something that we seem to be losing as a virtue in this country? It would seem so but there are also hundreds of thousands of people who continue to make their house payments even when they are upside down on them. Do you think that there is integrity in honoring your word and making good on a promissory note? I certainly do and apparently there are many others who agree.

We are not a nation of people wanting a handout. We are a nation of people who want opportunity and the freedom to do the most with that opportunity. Leaders in business are those who deeply believe in the drive within people to make the best of their circumstances. They find advantage and opportunity where others only find cause for complaint and whining. Leaders in industry are those who truly and deeply believe that people will rise to the difficulties they face. They believe that no matter what the task or how difficult the burden, we have it within us to carry it as far as we can.

And yes, I am fully and painfully aware that there are also those who hold leadership positions that live by a poor standard. But I would want to say that they are, in fact, not leaders simply because they may have a certain position. Leadership is something that is earned through performance and commitment. It is not a by-product of some position that you may have received through election or appointment. You earn it through behaviors that serve the greatest good.

Great leaders will do what it takes to make their companies and their people successful. There will certainly be tremendous trials and sacrifices, but if you choose to lead, then you also choose to pay that price. Always keep in mind that there is great reward for those who sacrifice for a greater good. Their reward comes best in the form of integrity. They have walked their talk and made good on their word. May each of us be just such a leader.

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