We live in a world of facades. We live in a world of branding that isn’t always true and of “staging” and of “fake it ‘til you make it.” Things are rarely as they appear to be, and it all has an effect upon us. We can get used to surface appearances that are far different from the realities at any depth. We can also let cynicism tempt us to settle for the facades.
This can kill great leadership. A leader’s job is to make sure that all is not only as it appears to be but that it is also what it should be through and through. Unwatchful leaders can become satisfied with the appearance of people being busy in a plant or an office, for example. There might be much motion and noise and scurrying. But is it real? Does it all lead to production? Are people getting results or just in motion? The leader has to know. He has to assure that what appears at the surface is real throughout the whole
It may surprise you to learn that this is the meaning of the original word for “integrity.” The word ‘integrity’ is related to the word “integrate.” Both come from the Latin word integras, which means “soundness, wholeness or entire.”
The Roman army used this word almost daily in its inspection ritual. A commander would walk the line of legionnaires, inspecting each man to confirm that he was fit for duty. As the commander came before one of his men, the soldier would sweep his fist hard into the middle of his chest, just over his heart, and shout “Integras!” The commander first listened for that rich, full quality of a healthy soldier’s voice, and then he listened for the clang that well-kept armor would emit when struck. Both sounds confirmed the “integrity” of the solder.
So here is the question for you. Does all that you lead have “integrity” in the old sense? Is it what it appears to be? Does it have the clang of healthiness, soundness, and quality? Is it integrated? In other words, is it as good through and through as it seems to be on the surface?
It is your job as the leader to be Chief Integrity Office. I’m not speaking of ethics and character in this case. I’m referring to your role as head of Authenticity Assurance.
I’ve worked with many firms that seemed to almost run on false appearances. From the well-tended grounds to the financial reports they handed me, everything was maintained for effect. Yet little of it was reliable evidence of the truth of the whole. People had become good at window dressing because they had learned that their leaders were easily satisfied with appearance. The truth was often desperate and threatening. No one had insisted on “situational reality.” Fake it until you make it had become the law of the land. Disaster usually followed.
Look over all that you lead. Walk around. Tap some armor. Listen to some voices. Check some stats. Get behind the scenes. Live and lead in situational reality. This is a pre-requisite for effective leadership.
Have a great weekend. And be comforted by the fact that Notre Dame is on the practice field!