Integrity Matters
June 1, 2005

Workers require integrity as well

Question: (E-189)

Dear Jim:

You write that leaders need integrity, but what about employees?


Long-term viability requires both leaders and followers to be single-minded and hard working.

Without integrity-centered followers, organizations cannot be effective. Organizations need self-starters who carry out duties with energy and assertiveness, take risks and solve problems independently.

Almost 20 years ago, Robert E. Kelley, in the Harvard Business Review, described the attributes of legitimate followers. He mentioned that integrity-centered followers are not passive, uncritical sheep who lack initiative. Nor are they "yes" people who appear overly deferential, expending energy on alliances with others like themselves and with insecure managers. Integrity-centered do not play it safe, waiting to see which way the wind blows before making a suggestion or taking action.

Effective followers also are committed to the organization - its vision, mission and culture. They build their competence and focus their efforts for maximum impact. They remain engaged without needing to be the star. They exhibit the core attributes of character, honesty, openness, authority, partnership, performance, charity and graciousness. Upfront about their ambition to get ahead, they desire to earn as they learn.

Perhaps the most reassuring realization about effective leaders and followers is their similarity. Each exhibits initiative, self-control, commitment, talent, honesty, credibility, courage and integrity.

Because you admire those who deliver your products and services effectively, and you want them to continue being productive, let them know. Integrity is essential throughout organizations and is sustained through careful hiring and thorough training. Effective leaders provide public and private recognition.

How well do you measure up as a leader and a follower? What steps are you prepared to take to improve?

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