True Leaders Are People of Integrity

John W. Marriott III, Executive VP for Marriott International, Inc., once said, “When asked what qualities we are seeking in future leaders of Marriott, I’m quick to list the characteristics we admire: customer-focused, diligent, intelligent, caring, and the list goes on. But, here’s the reality: a person must have integrity. If they don’t, they won’t last long in our organization. Integrity is the most important attribute a successful associate, manager or executive can possess. And yet, it seems that people with a strong set of principles are among the hardest to find. When we do find people with integrity, we keep them, we promote them, and we ask them to lead others. In other words, integrity works.”

True leaders understand that it is essential that they lead with integrity because people follow people they trust.  If they make a mistake they don’t cover it up or blame someone else—they admit it. If they make a commitment to an employee, colleague, or superior—they keep it.

The word integrity stems from the Latin adjective, integer (meaning whole or complete). Synonyms for integrity include candor, forthrightness, goodness, honesty, honorableness, and incorruptibility.

Why is integrity so important? Because lack of integrity in a leader immediately causes others (both inside and outside the organization) to lose trust in them, and it’s character-based trust that binds people (including spouses) to each other. Just as soldiers follow leaders they trust into battle, especially those who are willing to “take point” (i.e., assume the most exposed position),  employees follow leaders they trust.

True leaders know that trust is essential to maintaining high morale in an organization, and that lack of trust destroys morale and motivation. As Dr. Henry Cloud, a clinical psychologist and corporate consultant said in his 2009 book entitled, Integrity: The Courage to Meet the Demands of Reality, a lack of integrity is bound to result in failure in three key areas:
1. Hitting a performance ceiling that is much lower than ones aptitude
2. Hitting an obstacle or situation that derails you
3. Reaching great success only to self-destruct and lose it all.

As people of integrity, true leaders are willing to take “unpopular” stands and are willing to say, “No,” when doing so is the only ethical choice. W. Clement Stone shared this admonition, “Have the courage to say no. Have the courage to face the truth. Do the right thing because it is right. These are the magic keys to living your life with integrity.”

Allen Stalvey
Coach, Author & Producer of the Success Empowerment Program
VP of Operations, 
Dallas / Fort Worth Area


2 Responses to True Leaders Are People of Integrity

  1. Jade says:

    It would be interesting if anyone has any good advice on how to deal with leaders who are NOT good leaders; so as not to have to either walk away or lose a job you love. I’ve known basically 2 types. One who micromanages everything you do and the other who puts EVERY responsibilty on you. In my opinion a true leader is one who sets GOALS but they’re not “set in stone”. Its a person who can stay FOCUSED but still take the time to help someone else, has a PLAN but is able to be flexiable and adapts to change easily. Moves AHEAD but not so fast that followers can not follow. Able to “CLIMB the ladder of success” WITHOUT stepping on others and is even willing to take a hand off the next rung to extend it to the person on the rung below you, is able to take a bow gracefully while applauding those who helped make him or her a leader. I have been both a leader and a follower. A good leader remembers what it’s like to be a follower.

    • allenstalvey says:


      I feel your pain, and it is for this very reason I began this blog on True Leadership. There are many in leadership positions who are not what I’d call true leaders. As I noted in my True Leaders Have a Passion for the Business, and for Their People blog post, true leaders realize it’s not all about them, but about the success of the organizations they lead, and in turn, the success of people who join them on the journey.

      Whenever I’ve found myself working in an organization where I loved the job, but was faced with the challenge of working for someone whose “people skills” were well below par and / or who was on the fast track and focused only on themselves — I made it a point to:

      1. Focus on building as solid a working relationship with my manager as possible by working to understand their social style (how they feel comfortable relating to the world) and their motivation (what’s driving them) — then shift my own social style and output in a direction that blended best with theirs. With this strategy I’ve turned some “Oh wow, how did I end up here” situations into ones where I was one of the few who actually understood and (somewhat) got along with the manager.
      2. Focus on building solid relationships with other managers (including my manager’s manager), my colleagues (in my immediate department as well as in other departments), and the clients I served — so at the end of the day it was clear (in spite of my manager’s failings and lack of focus on my career or recognition) that I was someone they could all count on. By doing so I buttressed my reputation with others, left each day feeling proud of my accomplishments (whether or not my manager felt inclined to recognize them), and opened doors to new possibilities.
      3. Set my sights on either outlasting my manager, or finding a new and exciting opportunity in the company (step #2 can help in that regard). Sometimes the outlasting strategy played out before I could find something new, as either a real turkey of a manager finally bombed out, or a politically well-connected fast-tracker got the promotion they were desperately seeking (much to the relief of my team and the consternation of their new team).

      Of course there are other tactics available, such as going to your manager’s manager or to the HR Department to file a formal complaint (which is the right course of action if a manager is doing something illegal, unethical, or immoral). I’ve never taken that approach because I knew doing so would backfire on me big time if the manager I reported on wasn’t removed as a result of my actions.

      I hope this helps.

      Allen Stalvey
      Global Program Manager / Program Director
      Dallas / Fort Worth Area

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