Leadership Principles: Keeping Your Integrity

WINNER’S MINUTES: Leadership Principles: Keeping Your Integrity

How does surrendering your integrity hurt your leadership?

Politics are a nasty business; that is why I won’t play them. In politics, it is about winning at any cost. Some politicians might convince themselves that winning is for their constituents, but that is like cheating in a game to win. You tell yourself a lie so that you feel better about the outcome.

When I was a coach, I had a code for leadership integrity. I heard many other coaches tell me that they didn’t observe the twenty-hour practice rule that the NCAA dictated. They claimed that if they adhered to the rule then they would lose, because every other program was cheating.

“The more people rationalize cheating, the more it becomes a culture of dishonesty. And that can become a vicious, downward cycle. Because suddenly, if everyone else is cheating, you feel a need to cheat, too.”
—Stephen Covey

Our basketball staff did not break the twenty-hour practice rule, and we found ways to win. I couldn’t bear the thought of teaching my players that to win, we had to cheat. That was like telling them that they weren’t good enough, and the only way we were going to defeat an opponent was by breaking the rules. What kind of leader teaches her players that cheating is the only way to success?

Maybe you’ve rationalized that the means justifies the end. After all, a leader you idolized might have taught you that.

But what have you lost if you’ve surrendered your integrity?

Would you be surprised if your team members lied to you, misinformed you, stole from you? If you have taught them to devalue integrity, then you should not be surprised. You should have seen their treachery coming.

You taught them it was okay.

When I was a high school athlete, we played a team where they intentionally angered me to disrupt my performance. The first game we played them, I scored 45 points. They radically altered their game plan in our second contest. They started a player whose sole responsibility was to foul me hard the first four times I touched the ball.

On her fourth foul, the coach took her out and replaced her with the original starter. By that time, I had lost my cool.
I was too angry to play. They won, and we lost. They taunted me afterwards about how I played right into their hands.

If I would have been a professional athlete, maybe I could have handled the situation better, but I was a 15-year-old girl.
I never forgot the tears I shed over that game, and I was determined to never make any other athlete feel that way. During the years I coached, we either won via our great game plan and talent or we lost.

Period.

So when another leader suggests that you can’t win unless you cheat, you know that they don’t belief they are good enough to play with their talents.

“Nobody can give you integrity or buy your integrity. You earn integrity every day by living it.”

Coach Winn

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