A few years ago, I attended a party with friends and family. Like any great party, there was good food, music, laughter and everyone was having fun. At some point, the introvert in me noticed a guy I knew seated alone in the corner of the room and seemed to be lost in deep thought.
Naturally, I decided to join him, to find out what was bothering him. After exchanging pleasantries, I asked him why he was in deep thought and he opened up to me. He shared about where he was in life and how much he was struggling to find a good girl to date and eventually marry. He said that all his smooth efforts were not yielding any results. What bothered him most was that most of his friends were married and that about 90% of them were already divorced. Although he was a handsome and an accomplished fellow, I sensed that he had founded fears about ending up like one of his friends.
As I probed more especially about the kind of girl he was looking for, I learned that he had made a mental list about this girl. She had to be a Christian who did not drink alcohol, did not go to night clubs, regularly attended church and was devoted to prayer. I was impressed by the clarity of what he wanted. I was curious to find out more, so, I asked him if he drank alcohol himself or regularly attended church and if he did not go to night clubs? I was quite baffled by his answers. He said he did not go to church and he did drink alcohol and loved going to night clubs. I asked him if he was a prayerful Christian and he said: “Of course, I am not”. Wow! Since he was candid, I felt that I should share with him one simple life principle; that he was more likely to “attract who he is and not who he wants”. Although this was just a casual discussion, it reveals an important leadership principle.
As leaders, we have to first become what we want to see in our teams. We have to model and lead by example. In other words, we have to lead ourselves first before we can lead others. My mentor likes to say that, “If you can’t follow yourself why should anyone else follow you?” I find this to be a great question.
My personal observation is this, it is easier to lead others than to lead myself. It is easier to tell others what to do than practice it myself. However, for Leaders, this is not a luxury they can afford. They cannot have it both ways – say one thing and do the other! We call it the “price tag of leadership”. Self-leadership has been the highest price I have had to pay as a leader.
For instance, while others might get away with taking bribes, a leader cannot let such a habit creep into his or her character. While others might stop growing and learning after graduation, a leader can’t afford to do that, because soon you will become irrelevant and your team will silently despise you.
A question was asked during a survey of top executives; “What quality do you desire most in your team members”? 71% responded that integrity was the most important. I just started to wonder who among these executives exhibited and modeled integrity themselves.
My final point is that as a leader you are being watched! Your team is watching your every move, you are constantly sending strong signals with your actions and omissions. Be aware!
- What does the term ‘integrity’ mean to you, and how does it express itself in your professional and personal life?