This week we continue our exploration of the seven tenets of Owning Your Brilliance by taking a closer look at the second tenet: Demonstrate Unwavering Integrity. For many of us the concept of “Owning Your Brilliance” has scores of impediments. We are often discouraged by criticism from others or their failure to recognize or appreciate all that we have to offer and become proverbial shrinking violets. We sacrifice our best efforts and simply go through the motions in hope of fitting the norms and expectations set for us, to obtain the approval of spouses, bosses and the significant others in our lives. Unfortunately this denial of our own innate desire to share the best that we have to offer with others in an authentic committed way ultimately compromises our ability to lead with integrity. For the purposes of this conversation, we will define leadership as:
LEADERSHIP—the act or instance of guiding people or resources to a higher level of productivity than would have been possible on their own, for the greater purpose of the business or community in which they reside.
Great leaders operate from a unique yet extremely disciplined perspective—ANYTHING LESS THAN EXCELLENCE IS UNACCEPTABLE AND WE ARE ALL CAPABLE OF EXCELLENCE. You cannot consistently achieve excellence without integrity. Integrity must be demonstrated in every aspect of your life and always shines brightest in the manner in which you treat People, Develop Solutions, and Take Initiative.
New gurus of business disciplines have emerged to redefine the tenets of leadership, for future generations. In the book, “Good to Great!” by Jim Collins we are introduced to a new leadership paradigm called Level 5 Leadership. This new paradigm encourages us to seek out those leaders who are able to consistently exhibit a paradoxical blend of personal humility and professional will. An interesting choice of standards to be sure however through his exhaustive research Collins is able to prove that leaders who consistently demonstrate these leadership characteristics, actually manage to move beyond being merely an effective leader to the pinnacle of greatness in leadership hierarchy.
Too often our integrity is relative to societal or cultural norms and expectations which frequently changes when met with skepticism or opposition. True integrity requires that you demonstrate sound reasoning ability and unshakable character in the face of adversity. Great leaders work extremely hard to develop their expertise around the following principles:
Conducting yourself with integrity is more than ‘walking your talk’ or delivering what you say that you’ll deliver. It also requires that you refuse to compromise your ethical values and professional standards, in order to achieve a successful outcome. It requires you to consistently operate from a set of core values that govern your leadership thought and decision making process at all times.
One of the greatest leadership models available in the marketplace today is Ken Blanchard’s Situational Leadership II construct. As it helps us understand the necessity of a leader developing the ability to assess their staff’s level of competency, commitment and confidence toward a particular task and their flexing your leadership styles to provide them the level of leadership they need most in that particular work situation. Leaders should be able to flex to a Directing, Coaching, Supporting or Delegating mode as staff progresses in their level of proficiency. The following diagram provides you with an overview of Situational Leadership’s its key concepts:
Walter Nistorenko will be our role model for this week’s OYB tenet: Demonstrating Unwavering Integrity. Walter is a visionary leader who remains true to his core values whether serving others in his role as CFO, Pastor of Abundant Life Church, Professor at a Christian College or as husband and father. Following is an excerpt from an interview we recently conducted with Walter to find out exactly how he maintains his integrity and the impact it has on his life and those around him.
Willie Mae Veasy
President & CEO
WMV: Hello Walter it is a pleasure to meet with you today to discuss the benefits of Demonstrating Unwavering Integrity and the impact it has on your life and in the lives of those you lead and serve. We so appreciate you finding room in your busy schedule to share your insights on the importance of Integrity.
Walter: Thank you; it is my pleasure to be able to share my views with you on integrity. I so enjoy talking about these concepts especially as it relates to business because integrity is the soul of good business.
WMV: Depending on who you talk to integrity means something different to various people. Can you tell us what integrity in leadership means to you?
Walter: I consider integrity as something that is whole, complete and uncompromising. It is a complex value system that governs a person’s sense of purpose and activities in their life. For a person to truly be a good leader there must be no inconsistencies or incongruencies in their leadership behavior, in public or at home.
WMV: When I look at your bio I see that you have worked or served organizations that often have differing standards and values. How are the value systems different in a Church from a school or one of the corporations you work for?
Walter: The values of organizations may differ but my personal values and standards remain the same regardless of where I might serve or lead. Daniel is an excellent biblical example of a man holding a leadership position in a government whose values were totally different from his and yet he was extremely effective as a leader and he also managed to remain true to his belief system, without compromising. John Maxwell is a great modern day example of that same type of integrity in leadership. I believe the bigger question tends to center around the importance of understanding and respecting the culture of an organization.
WMV: Really? And why is that?
Walter: Because Organizational culture is so critical and a good leader needs to spend time discovering the unique aspects that influences each organization before they attempt to lead it. Every organization has its own way of behaving, responding and thinking; they all have different norms and behaviors. You have to understand the history of an organization in order to ultimately influence it. Those unique aspects of the organization must be honored and adhered to in asmuch as they are not in direct conflict with your personal core values.
WMV: In addition to being a CFO, professor and Pastor you are also a Husband and Father. What challenges does that role present for you in the area of integrity?
Walter: If you are living a life of integrity in a holistic sense, you take that standard with you in every aspect of your life; personal and professional. It would be hypocritical of me not to express and demonstrate those values, even more so at home than what I make available to the rest of the world. Ultimately, my greatest legacy to this world will be the family I leave behind and if my wife and children can’t trust my word and depend on my actions to be in concert with everything I say I am then they will see a lack of integrity. My children learn what love, truth and honesty is from me by not just by what I say but by what I do and how I treat them, their mother and others. It is a high standard.
WMV: How has dealing with these differing leadership expectations stretched or challenged your integrity?
Walter: A person in a leadership role needs to be clear about the intent of why they’re interested in being a leader. It should never be for selfish ambition or to control others but to serve and lead people to a higher level of excellence.
WMV: Have you ever been in a situation as a leader in which you were expected to compromise or relax your standards? If so, how did you deal with it and maintain your integrity?
Walter: Yes, I had a situation as a CFO in which I discovered some mishandling of funds. Keep in mind that the leader is ultimately responsible for the health and welfare of the entire organization. No matter how fond you are off people or important a role they may play in an organization, procedures must be followed to insure complete compliance with governing regulations and adherence to fiduciary responsibilities. To waver on this point is unacceptable. As much as I disliked having to terminate the employee responsible, I had no other choice. And while, I did it with as much respect and compassion as possible, they had to be held accountable for their actions. Many of the problems we are facing today are the result of a lack of integrity in leadership. We have all seen what happens when you turn a blind eye to matters such as this, you end up with Enron, Bernie Madoff and a whole host of other problems that no organization or people group should be forced to suffer through for the sake of greed and selfishness.
WMV: What guidance or advice can you offer someone new in a leadership role that might be overwhelmed by the political aspects of the job to such a degree that they are concerned that it is beginning to compromise their integrity?
Walter: You must begin with the mindset that you are going into that role to fulfill a critical and important need to further the mission of the organization. Being properly trained and equipped for the job is essential in further securing your comfortability in the role. If you understand these components of your role; you will be less anxious when political issues are introduced to the mix. Spend time understanding the key players in the organization and be emotionally intelligent enough to understand the need to gain buy in; without compromising your integrity. You really need to be able to distinguish between the people who are truly interested in the success of the overall organization and those who are just interest in promoting themselves.
WMV: Walter, as always it was a pleasure speaking with you and we greatly appreciate you so candidly sharing your insights and experience. To learn more about how Walter manages to maintain unwavering integrity across cultures, faiths and business industries, visit him at www.alcseaville.org.
If you have found the information and recommendations contained in this blog helpful and are interested in learning more about “Owning Your Brilliance,” consider attending one of our upcoming Professional Development workshop series by clicking on the following link.
In the meantime, we encourage you to make a conscience choice to Empower Yourself each and every day of your life by working on building up each of the eight key components of empowerment outlined in this blog.
Respectfully submitted for your thoughtful consideration,
Willie Mae Veasy
President and CEO
Covenant Business Concepts LLC