Choose to lead

Conducting yourself with integrity is a matter of practice

We really can’t have too many leaders in our business world, our communities, civic life and families. While it is true that more than one authority could create confusion, this is not the only means of leadership. A person can be a leader without being the authority figure.

John Quincy Adams defined leadership best: “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.”
If you think about who inspires you, you think about actions one demonstrates that you wish to emulate. Whether a family member, business colleague, or friend comes to mind, the qualities they practice are likely to include being smart, fair, considerate, honest and principled. The common thread of these characteristics is integrity.

Warren Buffet and Thomas Jefferson both said in their own words, two centuries apart, that estimating a person’s value rests first in integrity. Both men place integrity above intelligence and talent when it comes to the singular quality defining a person’s character. I know that people in my life who exhibit high integrity are the people whose example I want to follow. They are true leaders.

By being a person of integrity, you can be a leader. But how can you be a person of integrity? Many believe integrity is something with which you are born and that some are ‘wired’ for it. But integrity is not like intelligence or talent. While not everyone can be an inventor, writer or professional athlete, everyone can have integrity. Integrity is self-selecting — you decide to have it. You can decide to be a leader.

While you can choose integrity and it is within the reach of all, this doesn’t mean it is simple to attain. Take a look at the people in your life who have it. While they come from varied backgrounds, personal experiences and intellect, they didn’t come to it overnight. The acquisition of integrity lies in developing and practicing good habits of honesty, trustworthiness, and strong moral and ethical principles.

To enhance and strengthen your business integrity, create a code of ethics for yourself by which you conduct business. This will serve as the guide for the habits you practice. Each day, ask yourself, “How did I do?” Were you true to your code? If not, how can you improve?

Share your intentions with a mentor whom you respect. Meet regularly and talk through the challenging moments. Discuss ways on how to better respond.

You don’t have to be in an authoritative role to be a leader. Your personal integrity makes you a leader in any environment. You can decide to become a leader by strengthening your integrity through the development and practice of good habits. Easier said than done, but monitor your efforts and give yourself credit for daily progress. You will ultimately discover you have made a decision, and you will find you have decided to be a leader.

Anthony J. Margida is an accomplished entrepreneurial ecosystem architect specializing in tech startup programing, business accelerator and hub design, equity investment, organization sustainability, and funding.