When all your cards are on the table.

Integrity sounds like something that’s easily taken for granted. It’s one of the leadership skills most of us don’t need to think twice about. If we aren’t doing anything unethical, then we can stop worrying—we’ve already got ‘integrity’ in the bag, right? Maybe that’s why it often overlooked as an ingredient of leadership programs across the world. Yet, because its absence in a leader can have such devastating, visible effects for everyone involved with a business, it should be an integral part of leadership development.

A much better way to think about this core competency is to consider the different ways this ‘soft skill’ underpins almost everything we do as leaders. The way we build our teams, communicate with others, live and breathe the culture we create, and other aspects of leadership development. And at the core of it all, great executive leadership means recognizing integrity for what it is–an indispensable part of credibility.

Integrity and credibility as key leadership skills

Integrity as a leadership skill is a cornerstone for creating trust. Without integrity, it’s nearly impossible to be taken seriously. From our value statements to our daily processes, the way we behave and lead others determines how we are perceived. Not just by our team and anything unethical around us, but by potential business partners, customers, and our competition: all our stakeholders. Integrity and credibility are key leadership skills, and part of being an effective leader is achieving alignment between our values and behaviors.

Saying one thing and doing another is a surefire way to jeopardize the trust and respect of those around you. Granted, it’s common knowledge, but it’s more critical than ever if you’re the one that others look to as a role model. At the corporate level, the trust and confidence of those around you can take years to develop. At the same time, it’s easily shattered by very simple actions—often, repeated over time.

Why? It’s because failure to deliver on your promises can often send a very different message. For example, telling a team member you’ll take the time to do something, then not following through. Promising to listen to someone’s ideas, then consistently putting it off because you’re too busy. Both can easily seem like you’re telling others that your time is more valuable than theirs. To be a successful leader, demonstrating integrity means delivering on your commitments and being accountable for your actions.

Effective leadership aligns values and behavior

Integrity also plays a chief role when it comes to organizational values. Buy-in and collective commitment to your company’s strategic aims starts with you. When it comes to executive leadership, your day-to-day behaviors signal dedication to your team’s core values in a powerful way. They reinforce any formal messages and encourage others around you to do the same. When you walk the talk, you’re showing your team your intentions, honoring your psychological contracts, and setting a benchmark for others to aspire to.

Commitment to practising integrity is an important part of your leadership development.

Being transparent, clear, and consistent about your actions—and especially your mistakes!—is one of the most effective ways to grow and maintain the respect and trust of your team. It lays the foundation for a culture of integrity, which in turn paves a much smoother path for everything you will face together in years to come. In short, investing in alignment with what you say and do dramatically increases the speed of trust.