Integrity Matters
August 10, 2005

Integrity No. 1 rung on ladder to success

Question: (E-200)

Dear Jim:

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 mission-driven partners.

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 graciousness.

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 leadership.

Integrity requires intelligence, along with intensity, sensitivity and follow-through. Those who do not possess integrity-centered attributes should keep their resumes current.

Home Page | About Us | Ask Bracher | Services | Resources | Contact Us

©Bracher Center for Integrity in Leadership. All Rights Reserved.
1400 Munras Avenue ~ Monterey, California 93940