In the Christmas season, we all tend to pause and take some time to reflect on the things that really matter; things like family, love, generosity, and the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ as a baby in a manger. It seems appropriate, then, to take a little time to focus one of the character traits that we notice more during this time of year: integrity. For that reason, this week I share some thoughts about Henry Cloud’s book, “Integrity,” and next week I am drawing a lesson on leading with integrity from the example of George Bailey in the movie, “It’s a Wonderful life,” from a post I originally shared two Christmas’s ago.
According to Dr. Henry Cloud, there are three essential qualities of successful leadership: Competence, or the ability to “master your craft,” to “get good at what you do”; Relationships, or the ability to “cultivate and maintain relationships that are mutually beneficial”; and Character, or “your makeup as a person . . . not just moral safeguards, but who you are at your core, in both positive and difficult circumstances.” It is this third quality, Character, that he addresses in his book, “Integrity: The courage to meet the demands of reality” (2006).
In the book, Dr. Cloud connects character with integrity and reality, by explaining how reality puts demands on our lives that force us to respond, and how our response to reality are a reflection of our character. Our integrity, then, is seen in how our character is consistently demonstrated in all areas of who we are. He then discusses six specific aspects of our personhood – who we are – that must be integrated (consistently reflective of our character) for us to successfully lead:
- The ability to establish trust through authenticity
- The ability to see and speak the truth and reality, both in/to themselves and in/to others
- The ability to finish well
- The ability to embrace – and therefore to learn from – the negative
- The ability to be oriented toward growth, which requires intentional effort and application
- The ability to be oriented toward transcendence, recognizing that something bigger than you, from which your values will emanate
I found this to be an interesting and thought-provoking book. The emphasis was not so much on the character trait of integrity, but rather on the importance of having an integrated character. I would probably describe it in terms of consistency in your response to the realities of life in all circumstances, which reflects who you are as a person. Therefore, in this context, integrity is actually referring to an internal state – the unified wholeness in your character and your personhood as you navigate life. I do believe whole-heartedly that consistency and authenticity are necessary for successful leadership (and successful relationships), so this is a good lesson on which to reflect.