08th Nov 2011

Integrity: A fail-safe for successful leadership?

“The supreme quality for leadership is unquestionably integrity. Without it, no real success is possible, no matter whether it is on a section gang, a football field, in an army, or in an office.”

                                               Dwight D. Eisenhower

 Eisenhower may have oversimplified in naming integrity as the “supreme” quality of leadership for any and every context. But if integrity means taking a principled and honest approach to the task in hand while staying acutely aware of the overall priorities, then this can certainly be said to be an essential quality of successful leadership, and a basic guiding principle of the First 100 Days approach.

First, last and always, a person in a leadership role must be honest with him or herself. Distraction, delusion and confusion are facts of life in all organisations – they are part of the context in which any leader must operate, and part of the reason why leadership is necessary in the first place. The best guide for a leader in this context is regular self-assessment with reference to measurable results.

The first 100 days plan begins with a full appraisal of the key transition challenges. If you are promoted to a high executive position you must walk in on the first day with a very clear idea of the specific challenges associated with being new to the role. If you have your eyes open from the start you can drastically reduce the time spent acclimatising and get down to the more important and complex challenges you will face in the months ahead, the real heart of the 100 days plan.

These  principles of focussed observation and honest self-assessment are built into the plan at 30-day intervals. Any number of unforseen circumstances will arise, contexts will shift and expose new possibilities or threats. At each interval, actual results are compared with the plan – if at the sixty day mark you have failed to achieve what you thought you would, integrity consists in admitting this to yourself. You can then change your approach without losing your sense of purpose.

It is best to start with the end in mind – at the most basic level, the plan is an opportunity for you to work out and format your overall vision of what needs to happen and how to make it happen. It must take into account the nature of the organisation, the wider context of the market, and where exactly you fit in. Getting your priorities straight in advance, and setting up realistic goals in order to honour them, ensures the integrity of your approach from the start.

Hilda Goold

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