Integrity is one of the top attributes of a great leader. It is a concept of consistency of actions, values, methods, measures, principles, expectations and outcomes. It connotes a deep commitment to do the right thing for the right reason, regardless of the circumstances. People who live with integrity are incorruptible and incapable of breaking the trust of those who have confided in them. Every human is born with a conscience and therefore the ability to know right from wrong. Choosing the right, regardless of the consequence, is the hallmark of integrity.
There are many things you can lack and still steer clear of danger. Integrity isn’t one of them. Establish a set of sound ethics policies, integrate them into all business processes, communicate them broadly to all employees, and make clear that you will not tolerate any deviation from any of them. Then live by them.
The key that too many managers miss is “then live by them.” You cannot set policies that employees need to live by, and not live by them yourself. That will never work in the long run.
The book How Do You Kill 11 Million People? dives into the problems that leaders create when they lie to their people. Author Andy Andrews does a great job of describing the problems (often horrible and wide-spread) that come from a lack of integrity and character. He focuses primarily on the need for leaders to tell the truth and followers to recognize falsehoods and do something about them. “If you don’t know the truth, its absence can place you in bondage.”
Andrews thoughtfully promotes the long-term value of telling the truth, of being honest. Both tenets are key to living with integrity. He quotes Abraham Lincoln (probably the best known US president for having integrity) who promoted the importance of integrity and character in great leadership. Lincoln said: “Great leadership is a product of great character. And that is why character matters.”
I challenge all leaders to live and lead with integrity. You will not only benefit the people you lead, but also enjoy more peace in your personal life and experience greater success in your business endeavors.
The Product Management Perspective: To succeed as a product manager you must live with integrity. It’s crucial for product managers to build trust with the teams they work with and depend on. Trust grows through meaningful interaction with your teams and consistent application of proven principles. Developing trust and leading with integrity will increase the confidence others have in your work. When engineers, salespeople, marketers and others have confidence in their product managers, they will do amazing work.