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Qualities of a Great Leader


I want to focus on the qualities that make a great leader. In a survey of over 54,000 employees, the quality desired more than any other is integrity.

So; what is integrity and how do I build this quality as a leadership strength?

The simplest definition of integrity comes from a Greek word meaning, “whole.” To be whole and to feel whole my behavior has to be congruent with my deepest values and beliefs. These are the guiding principles for my life and can be described as my personal ethic or moral code of conduct. My sense of self respect and personal peace is deeply rooted in my personal sense of integrity. I am the only one that truly knows if I am living a congruent life. When I am out of integrity with myself, I feel restless, frustrated and discontent.

Gandhi said, ‘My life is an indivisible whole, and all my activities run into one another…my life is my message.’

To be a leader with integrity it is essential that I am clear about what my values, beliefs and guiding principles are.

An example of these guiding principles of life, are the twelve leadership commitments that participants learn in the Deeper Connections program. If you are unfamiliar with these commitments, I encourage you to attend Deeper, but I will give you an example of one of those commitments here and how it can assist you to be a leader with integrity.

As a leader; I keep my word and honor my commitments

In our current culture, keeping your word and honoring your commitments often operates on a sliding scale. Certain promises or commitments we make to ourselves or others have a much greater sense of importance, while others just do not receive the same consideration.

I believe that the root of this kind of commitment making and commitment breaking habit has a lot to do with our people pleasing issues. Too often, we are concerned about what a person will think about us if we say no, and so, we say yes without a strong sense of conviction that we will follow through with that commitment.

When I make a promise to someone and break that promise, generally, I believe that person will have some grace for me and not be shy in asking me for another commitment in the near future. However, if I consistently break that promise, then I will damage whatever good will I have built in that relationship and be deemed as not trustworthy. Damaging good will in a relationship is what will ultimately break down your respect for that person, which is actually very difficult to restore.

I remember when I was a child that I loved to play baseball. One of my favorite things was to play catch with my dad. So, I would bug him consistently about coming outside with me to throw the ball around. My dad was a busy man like so many dads and only had so much time to play with me. He wanted to and he would often promise to come and play but was unable to pull himself away from his office. I was probably around six years of age and I would charge into his office and ask him to play with me. He would say, ‘I would love to play with you and I definitely will as soon as I get this work done. I will join you in fifteen minutes.’ Fifteen minutes to a six year old feels like a couple of hours, so, I am sure that I charged back into my dad’s office in about five minutes later and asked him again to come and play. His response was the same as the first visit, ‘I would love to play and I definitely will in about fifteen minutes.’ Well, I’m sure I bothered him a couple more times before he finally said, ‘I’m busy, I can’t play with you right now…later.’ Later did not come and I stopped bugging him. Unfortunately, the disappointment I experienced kept me from asking him again. Deep down the six year old boy believed that his dad really did not want to play with him and that he was not a person who kept his word.

In the years after that incident, my father continued to a busy man and his health was an issue, so, I don’t really remember asking him to play with me again. He died when I was fifteen, so, unfortunately, I never had the opportunity to talk to him about what happened on that day when I was six. I do know that I chose to be an independent, self sufficient person who struggled to ask anyone for anything in the years that followed. And, even today I still feel very uncomfortable feeling dependent on anyone else for my happiness.

In hindsight, I see my father as an amazing person and considering how sick his was for much of my life he did so much to show all his kids how much he loved them. And yet, It only takes one day and one memory to impact the course of a person’s decisions and ultimately their behaviors.

I want to be conscious of the commitments and promises I make because the consequences of breaking those promises, not matter how small or steamily insignificant. When I keep my word and follow through with my commitment I prove to myself and my people that I can be trusted.  Each commitment must be made with complete seriousness.  If I think there is any chance of not being able to follow through, then I should not make that commitment.

What are some of the commitments or promises you have made recently that you are not taking seriously enough? If you do not follow through, chances are that you will damage the good will you have established in a relationship and possibly damaged your own self respect.


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