Leadership refers to the process through which a person supports and helps other people to accomplish a task (Mobley, Wang, & Li 2009). A person who leads other people must possess leadership qualities, which include being honest, intelligent, competent, inspiring, and forward-looking. A successful leader must also practice leadership ethics and integrity, which will promote healthy interpersonal relations between leaders and employees. Ethical leadership is when a leader respects the dignity and rights of other people within an organization (Akrivou et al. 2011). This focuses on the way leaders utilize their social power to engage in various actions, arrive at decisions, and influences other people. Ethical leaders demonstrate a high degree of integrity, which is significant for stimulating trustworthiness that will allow the acolytes to continue accepting the leader’s vision (Brown 2005). The integrity and characters of leaders serve as the foundation for personal traits that direct ethical values, decisions, and beliefs of the leader. This discussion will consider how ethical leadership involves integrity.
Integrity as an Element of Ethical Leadership
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Integrity is the adherence to ethical and moral principles that people in an organization or country must follow. Leaders are able to exercise integrity when they are honest. According to McCann & Holt (2009), integrity personifies a leader’s main characteristic because without integrity a leader cannot be successful. An effective leader must strictly adhere to the ethical and moral principles of an organization or country. People always follow the leaders who treat them in a fair manner based on the ethical and moral principles that govern an organization or country as a whole (Brown 2005). It is evident that ethical leadership is more of an integrity leadership. This is because a leader must possess leadership integrity to be able to follow ethical principles in a strict manner.
A country will succeed politically, socially, and economically when citizens follow leaders, who are ethical in various practices, including fair distribution of resources among the citizens and treating people fairly in public offices, just to mention a few (Cox 2009). Effective leaders empower their employees or citizens to follow an integrity model. According to Kim Cheng Low & Sik Liong (2012), employees will follow the managers of an organization when they experience justice in the organization. Organizations mainly define a number of moral standards that serve as organizational ethics. It has been evident in the research by Eisenbeiß & Giessner (2012) that integrity is among the essential characteristics for an effective leadership. Many scholars have found that integrity is a significant element of ethical leadership.
An ethical leader will be successful by promoting various activities that can encourage ethical behaviors in an organization or country. Mayer et al. (2012) suggest that ethical leaders create and implement programs that support integrity in an organization’s business. Such programs may include establishing protocols for advising people, setting rules and guidelines that help people deal with ethical issues effectively, and creating open discussions that focus on ethical issues (Mayer et al. 2012). Establishment of such programs will enable ethical leaders to change and encourage moral behaviors, which can improve morals and work environments in organizations. An ethical leader should ensure that employees can be able to deal with ethical dilemmas appropriately.
The integrity of a person encompasses being sincere and truthful to society, which is a significant trait that ethical leaders should possess (Fluker 2009). An ethical leader will fulfill obligations to an organization or country with the help of integrity. When leaders are truthful to themselves, they would afford fulfilling obligations to lead people in a sincere and caring manner. The integrity and sincerity of leaders are the fundamental strengths of ethical leadership when the leaders socialize with their followers (Fluker 2009). A reliable and sincere leader can be confident when working in partnership with other people, such as in political parties, government, family, and civil societies. This can safeguard, as well as advance a society’s future with collective social responsibility. Roundy (2010) suggests that leading people with integrity has been among the challenges that leaders face. It is unfortunate that people cannot qualify to be ethical leaders if they just lead by authority, power, or force alone. According to Roundy (2010), it is hard to determine whether a leader leads with integrity or not, unless hardships and difficulties come into the leadership.
Strong leaders with integrity are capable of pulling their ethical groups during hard times, ensuring that the core is resilient and strong (Stouten, van Dijke, & De Cremer 2011). Ethical leaders use integrity to muster and lead their followers with passion, confidence and honesty. Leaders who act with integrity incorporate the group’s ethics into their daily life, which show the group members that they will accomplish their daily goals (Mayer et al. 2012). For instance, church leaders will demonstrate integrity through incorporating their religious opinions into their daily lives, which will show the congregation that their religion is enough for salvation. This will motivate the members of the congregation to adhere to their ethical opinions and live in accordance with their congregation’s beliefs. Therefore, leaders, who demonstrate integrity in their leadership, can serve as role models that the followers will emulate (Mayer et al. 2012).
Stern honesty in whatever a leader believes is among the elements of integrity and ethical leadership (Mobley, Wang, & Li 2009). Leaders with integrity have the ability to speak about their ethics passionately because they fully believe in what they say. Hearing leaders’ deep devotion to ideas can sway the opinions of people and encourage them to accept the ideas, thereby becoming true followers. The capability of swaying other people’s ideas is a significant quality of an effective and a successful leader (Mobley, Wang, & Li 2009). In most cases, ethical leaders who lead with integrity are likely to sway other people’s ideas. Ethical leaders who lead with integrity can spread their visions and optimisms with other people and keep their existing groups’ beliefs extremely strong (Kim Cheng Low & Sik Liong 2012). Therefore, it is evident that integrity promotes passion among ethical leaders, which enables them to address various issues, including incidents of corruption in an effective manner. A leader can deal with corruption issues within an organization confidently if he or she is not corrupt (Mobley, Wang, & Li 2009).
Leaders who lead their people with integrity earn the trust of the people because these people know that the leaders will never sell out or compromise their views (Stouten, van Dijke, & De Cremer 2012). Integrity leadership allows leaders to believe in the group’s ethics more than they care about the group’s material gain. For example, those leaders, who manage organic stores, will refuse to convert the organic stores to stores that deal with processed foods. This will happen when the leaders are ethical leaders, who lead with integrity. They understand that it is wrong to sell to consumers the foods that contain chemicals, artificial, flavors, and colors. Therefore, it is impossible for ethical leaders, who lead with integrity, to harm their followers intentionally. This will earn such leaders the trust of their followers, who will leave in accordance with the leaders’ governance. Therefore, people cannot avoid trusting those leaders, who demonstrate integrity as one of the leadership qualities (Stouten, van Dijke, & De Cremer 2012).
Ethical leaders can also demonstrate integrity by committing themselves to oversee their group members and the organization’s actions. According to Kinkade (2012), those leaders, who do not lead with integrity, are likely to shirk their responsibilities and blame someone else when problems take place during their leadership. However, those leaders, who demonstrate integrity, will recognize any problem and admit that it is their responsibilities (Kinkade 2012). It is necessary to note that this can lead to consequences against the leaders. However, accepting responsibilities when problems occur during leadership is one of the ways ethical leaders show integrity regardless of the consequences they are likely to face. Therefore, ethical leaders demonstrate integrity in their leadership when they are able to accept responsibilities even when problems occur in the course of their leadership (Kinkade 2012).
Ethical leaders depend on integrity for consistency in the course of their leadership (Ireland, Hoskisson, & Hitt 2008). Consistency is a characteristic that successful leaders must possess because consistent leaders follow the ethical principles strictly without deviating in any way. Consistent leaders treat their followers fairly in accordance to the existing moral and ethical principles (Ireland, Hoskisson, & Hitt 2008). These principles serve as a guideline, which will help eliminate any confusion and troubling times. Leaders who demonstrate consistency in the course of their leadership based on basic ethics always deserve respect from their followers (Ireland, Hoskisson, & Hitt 2008). Therefore, ethical leaders use integrity to exhibit consistency in the course of leadership, which promotes fairness.
Integrity requires ethical leaders to develop the ability of following through on their convictions and promises (Schermerhorn 2011). Leaders may undergo a temptation of straying from their principles and foundation, like any other person. Following the right action is not always easy, especially when the leader does not demonstrate integrity in the course of leadership (Stouten, van Dijke, & De Cremer 2012). However, when leaders lead with integrity, they will be able to follow through and perform the right action than opting for an easy way. Taking the most seductive or easy path can lead to immediate results, which has a high likelihood of ruining the life or business of an organization (Kim Cheng Low & Sik Liong 2012). When leaders go against their core beliefs and values for an instant gain, there will be negative consequences. People do not need to worry over or question the positive results when leaders maintain the integrity throughout their course of leadership. Therefore, ethical leaders find integrity to be crucial when higher principles require them to follow through on their convictions and promises.
It has been evident that ethical leaders must demonstrate integrity in their leadership in order to influence followers positively (Mobley, Wang, & Li 2009). Leaders who lead with integrity have a high likelihood of swaying other people’s ideas, thereby making them their followers. This happens when people realize that their leaders show commitment to uplifting the standards of the organization to the benefit of employees, stakeholders, and community as a whole. Leaders need to show their followers stern honesty in every action, which will promote trust among the followers (Mobley, Wang, & Li 2009). People are always willing to follow leaders who are honest because they can be able to predict the future actions of the leader. Ethical leaders should be consistent in the whole of course of leading an organization or country (Ireland, Hoskisson, & Hitt 2008). According to Kim Cheng Low & Sik Liong (2012), integrity is the characteristic that leaders require in order to do things consistently. When a leader stands for truth, it is not possible for the leader to provide different answers during an interrogation regarding the occurrence of various problems in leadership (Mayer et al. 2012). Integrity enables ethical leaders to admit their responsibilities in leadership, especially when organizations face problems. Leaders who lead with integrity will admit that they are responsible for those problems irrespective of various repercussions. Without integrity, leaders can shirk their responsibilities and blame other people for the prevailing problems (Kinkade 2012)