August 10, 2005
Integrity No. 1 rung on ladder to success
Other than lacking integrity, what other flaws do you
observe, over and over, in failed leaders?
Quoting successful business leader, Warren Buffett: "In
evaluating people, you look for three qualities: integrity,
intelligence and energy. And, if you don't have the first,
the other two will kill you."
The foundation for building success and impact, over
the long haul, is integrity. Those who lack it often
fail, regardless of title or task. Justifiable mistrust,
a by-product of broken promises, erodes motivation among
Three additional career killers are arrogance, ignorance
and incompetence. Not too long ago, I met with a newly
appointed first-time chief executive officer, who exhibited
all three. Her arrogance was exhibited by total disrespect
for the valuable time of those with whom she worked.
Schedules were ignored, causing those about her to scurry
to keep the people "down-line" informed about
her time-sensitive crises. Not one time did I hear her
say, "Thank you for your patience" or "I
am sorry to have made you wait." She demonstrates
that her position affords her entitlements, including
flagrant abuses related to time. She did not exhibit
CEOs are not expected to know all of the rules of the
road immediately. However, not asking for help is certain
to sustain ignorance. Watching this individual make a
series of operational blunders with current direct reports
- not asking for their input in areas where she had little
or no knowledge - made clear that people were not important
to her. Leaders exude confidence that they are eager
to share the spotlight and learn from others, crediting
them for their contributions. Not being attentive, she
lost valuable opportunities to learn, encourage and motivate.
Topping off her mediocre leadership was incompetence.
Leaders always assume responsibility. To emphasize this
point, consider the comments made by Kenneth Lay, former
CEO of Enron. He describes Enron's collapse as something
that surprised him because he was a "hands-off" executive.
If he did not know what was happening, then Lay should
give back his salary and bonus. If he did know, then
he is accountable for indictments regarding malfeasance.
In the case of my recent encounter with a "wannabe" leader,
blame was her game in an effort to make fame in her own
name. She will fail, long term. My father said that those
who do not learn will likely suffer.
Diligence means that CEOs own mistakes because that
is what leadership requires. Courage improves morale
and increases productivity. Employees recognize legitimate
Integrity requires intelligence, along with intensity,
sensitivity and follow-through. Those who do not possess
integrity-centered attributes should keep their resumes