Integrity Matters: How to Identify It in Leaders

I read with interest recent comments from Warren Buffet on what he looks for when hiring talent and future leaders: intellect, energy (initiative), and integrity – and he goes on to say that without integrity, don’t bother!

I’ve been reflecting on this since and not only agree with him but think the timing of his comments are more important than ever – especially with attracting and retaining Millennials in the workforce.

In a recent Inc. article, integrity makes the list of the top four leadership traits millennials look for in leaders – along with mentoring, having a gentle spirit, and authenticity.  I know from personal experience in leading millennials and in coaching millennial leaders, that being able to count on a leader’s word, and an organization’s word, for that matter, is critically important to them. Millennials value leaders who can walk the talk. Interesting though, integrity usually makes it to the top of the list for all demographics.  The bottom line is we all want to work for leaders we can trust, we can count on. Given this, when leaders look to attract top talent and future leaders, it doesn’t hurt to first look in the mirror and examine how integrity shows up in our own leadership mix.  If we don’t demonstrate integrity ourselves, we won’t be able to succeed in the fight for top talent.

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Assuming we make the grade, how do we assess whether candidates have it?

A few things to consider:

  • Can they easily speak to the values that they live their lives by, and give examples of how they do this?
  • Do they keep their word, can they be counted on to do what they say they will and can they share behavioral examples of how they do this?
  • Are they known for praising or blaming others? Do they give credit to team members?
  • Do they speak only “I” language or do they also have a “We” vocabulary?
  • In the interview, consider giving them an ethical scenario to resolve and see how they handle it.
  • Conduct references around integrity – ask their references to give you an example of why they trust this candidate or how the candidate demonstrates integrity.
  • Start with referrals from your most trusted, high integrity employees – it’s always a good place to begin

There are a lot of leadership traits that are critical to success, but without integrity, sustained leadership will be very hard to attain. If you are a rising talent and on the leadership track, remember to be impeccable with your word. Deliver on what you promise. Speak the truth. By making it easy for senior leaders to trust you, you will be on the right track to ensuring you have the personal integrity required for a successful leadership future!

Next month, I’ll share other important leadership traits for future leaders to develop, and yes, a couple might surprise you.

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Sandra Hokansson

Sandra Hokansson
Sandi Hokansson is a certified executive-level coach and principal of SoundLeadership. Reach her at sandi (at) soundleadership (dot) ca.

Sandra Hokansson

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