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?

Knowing The Water

Yesterday I assumed the role of Chair of the National Association of State Boards of Education (NASBE) Board of Directors. The day before, in a meeting, I was introduced with the byline that in 24 hours I would be taking the helm. I’m not sure why, but I shivered a little at this. I even said, “I’m not sure what to think about that.” Then, our NASBE Northeastern Area Director, Dr. Audrey Noble (Delaware State Board of Education member) who is an avid boater/sailor said, “You’ll be fine. The key to success at helm is about knowing the water, and you know it well.” She had made a powerful statement there and had said a lot.

Later, as I reflected on that interaction, I remembered an awesome story that came out of World War II. And, of course, the story involves the great leader and 34th President of the United States, Dwight D. Eisenhower. The story goes that he went to the tent where his soldiers were mapping out a location for the troops to cross a river. Eisenhower pointed at a spot on the map and said, “We will cross here.” One of his troops said, “We cannot cross there, Sir.” Eisenhower asked why not. They told him they were not sure how deep the water was. Eisenhower pointed to his dampened pants leg and said, “It is this deep.” Clearly, he “knew the water.” Eisenhower had taken the time to actually get his feet wet and know where he was sending his troops.

Leadership by example and working shoulder to shoulder with those you serve continue to be the most successful forms of leadership. These concepts can take many different forms, but is expressed well with the phrase that is on a picture that hangs in my den, “Walk The Talk.” Walking the talk is one of my core values. It really speaks to the fact that our character is our legacy. If we say we believe or will act in a certain way, then our actions should prove that. I blogged about this in Walk the Talk!

A helmsman relies on his knowledge of the water he is in, visual references, GPS, other technological tools, and a rudder angle indicator to steer a steady course. Leading in an organization is no different. One must “know the water.”