Byron's Babbles

Integrity Is A Catalyst

Posted in Global Education, Global Leadership, Integrity, Leadership, Leadership Development, Walk The Talk by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on May 15, 2021

If culture and community are a shared group phenomenon, then our behaviors are the catalyst for the formation of a healthy and highly functioning community. Topping the list of these behaviors has to be integrity. I like looking at integrity as a behavior, not just as a word. I’ve been frustrated lately with leaders who “talk the walk” instead of “walking the talk.” Don’t tell me about your integrity, show me. I guess I’m not alone in believing this is an issue because Mike Horne wrote a great book on the subject that I just finished, Intregrity By Design: Working and Living Authentically.

In the book, Mike told us, “The effect of our behavior in groups and teams is cumulative—it all adds up in our working effectiveness” (p. 37). Thus, the shared group phenomenon I spoke of earlier. People are looking for men and women of integrity who would be able to influence their lives positively. With integrity, we are able to interact with all echelons of society and our own communities we are a part of, including our organizations and teams. This becomes a catalyst because people would undoubtedly prefer to deliberate or associate with trustworthy individuals.

Mike so aptly reminded us that, “In the course of organizational life, leaders emerge in teams and groups. Organizations and groups offer daily opportunities for lead- ers to stand up for integrity-full behavior” (p. 37). It is important to remember that a leader’s behavior reflects on not only their own reputation, but also on the reputation of the organization. It is difficult to have faith in a leader who says one thing but does another: a leader’s words and actions should match.

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

~ Dwight D. Eisenhower

It has been a while and a lot has changed since President Eisenhower led during war and then in the White House. But this gap in time has not diminished the importance of integrity as a leadership trait. Eisenhower was great at modeling integrity. “Leaders look for teachable moments and moments of truth to develop individual and group integrity” (Horne, p. 38). How about you? Are you making a strong impression?

“Sam, Be A Man”

I have been in the Rayburn House Office Building many times in Washington D.C. I had not, however, really ever given much thought to the great man the building was named after, former Speaker Of The House Sam Rayburn. Robert Caro did a whole chapter plus on Sam Rayburn in the great book I’m reading right now, The Path To Power. I am now researching biographies on Rayburn and I am going to study his life, service, and leadership.

The part that Caro vividly portrayed is the integrity with which Sam Rayburn lived and led. He wrote the story that Rayburn told of what his dad told him when he left home for college. His dad held his hand and told him four words, “Sam, be a man.” That’s pretty powerful when you think about it. What does it mean to be a man? For Sam Rayburn it was about living and leading with honor and integrity. Rayburn would say, “There are no degrees of honorableness. You either are or you aren’t.” A very powerful two sentences to live by.

There are no degrees of honorableness. You either are or you aren’t.” ~ Former U.S. Speaker Of The House Sam Rayburn (Texas)

This reminds me of what my good friend, former U.S. Congressman Steve Buyer, used to tell me and my students each year when we visited him in room 2230 of the Rayburn House Office Building: “Your character is your legacy.” That was always so moving. My students would talk about that and try to define it for the rest of our time at the National FFA Washington Leadership Conference, and the trip home. I was so proud, as an Indiana FFA Advisor to take students to this conference every year for so many years and have my students get to meet with such a great leader. It was so impactful for me to read about the man who lived with such honor that the building was named after that housed the office of a man that was such a great leadership role model for myself and my students.

“Your character is your legacy.” ~ Former U.S. Congressman Steve Buyer (Indiana)

Our legacy grows with each new experience. Our leadership is not shaped nor our legacy defined at the end of our career or life, but rather by the moments shared, the decisions made, the actions taken, and even the mistakes made along the journey. It’s about a continual reinvention of ourself with new learning, experience, relationships, and wisdom. We need to be thinking about our personal growth and continual improvement.