After recently posting “Most Admired Leadership Qualities,” a young 20-something leader wrote on my Facebook page, “Such a solid word. Dennis the danger is you put it so simply that it’s easy to miss that this is a lifetime of wisdom on one page. Maybe you should do a series, one post on each one of these topics. I’d certainly read it.” I’m going to do exactly what Caleb suggested.

IntegrityThe seven most-admired characteristics in a successful leader that I shared are: integrity, servanthood, visionary, innovative, humility, persistent and balanced.  I placed integrity first because without it, nothing else matters much.

I’ve heard many definitions of integrity, but the one that has stuck with me is simply, “Integrity is who you are when no one’s looking.” Not sure who to give credit to but this definition works for me. Any leader who flourishes for the long term will have integrity. In a previous blog, I quoted Craig Groeshel from his book, Altar Ego, “If you don’t have integrity, that’s all that matters. If you do have integrity, that’s all that matters.”

Integrity is being who you say you are even when no one is watching. You tell the truth and nothing but the truth. You follow through with the commitments. There’s congruency between outer and  inner. Yes is yes. No is no. You are real. Authentic. Not playing the part. No masks. Transparent. There’s a shortage of such people in our world.

WhenNoOneisLookingI recently walked into a local business to rent a vehicle. Two employees were at their desks as I walked up to the counter. One lady got up and headed toward a back room while looking at her phone. The other lady watched her phone screen as she headed for the bathroom. (Honestly, I did shower that morning and didn’t munch on any garlic.) The one who got up first, said to the other, “why don’t you help him (referring to me) because I’m handling a work situation.”

In response, the employee heading to the bathroom, threw her phone toward her desk and missed as she stormed back to the counter to help me. Composing herself, she gave me a big smile and said, “How can I help you?” Even when I was watching, their was a major discrepancy — the words didn’t match the body language. That’s an integrity problem!

Neither of the employees considered me to be their priority. One “dumped” me on the other with a snide comment that implied the other was doing personal stuff on her phone. The other one was seething with anger that she got stuck with helping a customer. When I commented on the possible damage to her phone, she mumbled something about the fact she was trying to handle a jury summons. I guess I really did interrupt something much more important than renting a vehicle—which would help to pay their salaries.

But honestly, who am I to judge? I’ve demonstrated duplicity in my life. I’ve faked my way through serving someone with a smile on my face while inside I was annoyed the person interrupted my busy day.

It’s a reminder to live with integrity at every level. Our customers, our clients, our followers, our parishoners and our co-workers much prefer authenticity and realness. After all, it is one of the distinguishing characteristics of a great leader!


QUESTION: Do you have other definitions of integrity to offer?  I’d love to hear them.


4 responses to When No One’s Looking

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