Richard H. Ryder, 2017
What role does integrity play in the mind of a leader? Is the demonstration of integrity situational? How do you know if a person has integrity? What roles do values and trust play in the perception of integrity? These are questions for everyone, most especially for leaders within Freemasonry.
Briefly defined, integrity is the “firm adherence to a code or standards of values.” As such, it is predicated on having a defined and accepted standard of shared personal values. John C. Maxwell, in his book, Developing the Leader Within You, states it this way: A person of integrity is one who has established a system of values against which all of life is judged”. We are all different, but we can still share a set of values. This is especially true among Freemasons, who commit to the same tenets when we take our obligations.
But, at a minimum, there are certain values that masons and non-masons should share. They include, but are not limited to, compassion, fairness, honesty, kindness, loyalty, openness, respect, responsibility, service, and trustworthiness. If any of us are in positions of leadership within the fraternity, then we need to always practice integrity in our relationship with others. Failure to do so means a degradation of our effectiveness; but most importantly it diminishes the respect we hope to earn from others.
How many times have you been in a situation where you are faced with a dilemma on how to act? One voice guides you toward the convenient solution; the one where others may suffer, but you go away unscathed. Or maybe your decision retains your image and reputation, but at the expense of someone else’s. All of us know right from wrong, but there are times when the differences may get a bit fuzzy, clouding our ability to make the right choice. It is at this very pivotal moment that our internal values should take hold and guide us toward the right action.
Our actions are windows into our personal value system and reflect who we truly are. Occasionally, we can violate our value system and others may not notice. But over time, if values are continually compromised, it will reflect a fundamental change in our personal value system, a change easily noticed by others. The result is a gradual eroding of your ability to lead.
One might argue that we should all embody integrity in dealing with others regardless of rank or position in life. However, a leader, given he or she influences the thoughts and actions of others, must set an example that will inspire trust and cause people to follow. Cavett Roberts, founder of the National Speakers Association, states: “If my people understand me. I’ll get their attention. If my people trust me. I’ll get their action”. John C. Maxwell expands on this by saying, “For a leader to have the authority to lead, he needs more than the title on his door. He has to have the trust of those who are following him”.
True integrity is not a characteristic that fluctuates depending on the situation. To be taken seriously leaders must consistently demonstrate integrity as a reflection of their values, otherwise they will appear duplicitous, resulting in a loss of trust. Trust is not earned quickly; it is built over time. In other words, leaders must consistently demonstrate integrity, not just when it is convenient.
John C. Maxwell paints the following picture: “A person with integrity does not have divided loyalties (that’s duplicity), nor is he or she merely pretending (that’s hypocrisy). People with integrity have nothing to hide and nothing to fear”. Leaders need to be particularly cognizant of their values and their corresponding actions. Once integrity is compromised it is difficult to regain the trust of others. Once again, John C. Maxwell: “To earn trust a leader has to be authentic. For that to happen, one must come across as a good musical composition does – the words and the music must match.” Fred A. Manske, Secrets of Effective Leadership, said: “Without integrity you do not have trust, and without trust you have nothing.” Tom Peters, the popular management consultant, stated that “the best, most aggressive, and successful organizations are the ones who stressed integrity and trust.”
What Can You Do?
As you ponder your own set of values and your integrity, ask yourself some questions. For example:
- What are your values?
- Do my values coincide with those who follow me?
- How do you use your values to guide your actions?
- Through your actions, are others able to accurately identify your values?
- What would others say about your value system and integrity?
- How often do you violate your value system and why?