Question time: how important is integrity?

Integrity – the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles – has been making national headlines this week, courtesy of some high-profile senior public servants.

Barnaby Joyce has been accused of sacking former Agriculture secretary, Paul Grimes, for challenging his integrity – and Solicitor-General, Justin Gleeson, has resigned over a ‘broken’ relationship with Attorney-General, George Brandis.

The question of integrity has been central to both stoushes. The way things have played out makes me feel optimistic, even uplifted, that leaders are willing to operate with integrity, be accountable, and respond authentically. Let’s take a closer look.

Integrity comes first

As a former public servant, I have found this political scenario quite fascinating. It has resonated with me because I am a strong believer in the value of integrity, over everything else. I can’t help but admire and respect Paul Grimes and Justin Gleeson for backing themselves, and doing what they thought was right, even though the personal and professional consequences would be significant.

When senior leaders demonstrate integrity, in my experience, this sets the tone of an organisation’s work culture, which in turn, impacts on performance because most people respect managers who walk the talk. A recent study notes that workplace culture is a deal-breaker for many employees. It states that an estimated one million Australians leave their jobs each year because they are not suited to their workplace culture.

Be authentic in response

No one’s perfect. Everyone makes mistakes – and that includes leaders who have the utmost integrity. It’s called being human. When the proverbial sh*t hits the fan (and inevitably it does, from time to time), the way you respond to it is going to be what defines you. Being authentic – real and genuine – is the best place to start. For example, own a mistake or error in judgement, and be brave enough to apologise if it’s relevant.

For the most part, the people around you will have far greater respect for you if you’re authentic. Authenticity leads to the development of more meaningful relationships – and when we build more meaningful relationships, we are able to better connect and engage with employees, clients and other stakeholders. A word of warning: ‘fake authentics’can be spotted from a mile away. My advice? Never, ever go there. Be comfortable being you.

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