Can a Leader Behave with a Commitment to Integrity Despite a Lack of Organizational Integrity?

 Chapter 8  Pg’s 206-207  Lead With Love By: Gerry Czarnecki

 The simple answer to this question is ”yes!” My behavior does not need to be controlled by anybody else but me. I am responsible for my level of commitment to integrity, so if I believe in a set of values, then I can and should do what I believe to be right, irrespective of the organization’s views. If I truly believe, then I will not be distracted from my path.

 In theory, our individual beliefs should dictate our behavior; however, we are undeniably influenced by the “tone at the top.” It is clear that what an organization’s top leadership establishes as the norm of behavior will eventually become the norm within the organization. If the culture at the top of Enron was one that said, “Do the deal, no matter what the cost,” then every person in the organization would have been influenced by that culture. The senior leaders of an organization may not fully realize it, but their impact on others is enormously powerful.

 So, what can I do as a leader if I do not believe in the “kill for the deal” culture? Can there be a “sub-culture” that says, “Not all deals are worth doing if they harm others”? One could argue that, if I believe in my principles, I will prevail. But the corrosive nature of the described culture would make it virtually impossible to survive in that type of organization without acquiescence to the organization’s values. Eventually, the contradicting value will be expunged by the leadership behavior and, in particular, the reward system. If the leaders value “cutthroat competition,” then that is the behavior they will reward, and eventually that is the behavior they will get. Any “rogue” ideas by members of the organization will be driven out.

 Let’s go back to the question “Can a leader value integrity in an organization that does not?” The answer is “yes, but not for long.” If an individual leader behaves in a way that is inconsistent with the acceptable behavior, eventually that leader will change behavior and become “one of them.” Or the individual will fail by the organization’s standards and will leave or be !red. Ultimately, the realistic and highly pessimistic answer to the question is “no!” Call it the “Law of Bad Leadership”: bad leaders at the top will drive out good leaders at the bottom. Eventually, the organization will end up with only those who sell out to a lack of integrity or those who never had any in the first place.

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