There once was a universal expectation that leaders would be people of integrity.
While it was understood that some leaders were not scrupulously honest or failed to fulfill their promises, they were usually chastised, rather than celebrated, and sometimes removed from office when their dishonesty was revealed.
We seem to be a national low point when it comes to integrity.
That’s why it is essential that teachers and principals establish and maintain high expectations for honesty and promise keeping.
Here’s what I had to say on that subject in March 2013 long before I could have imagined today’s reality.
Choose integrity over expediency
Successful leadership can sometimes be reduced to a small number of fundamental choices. Once those choices are made, they guide decisions and behavior in dozens of situations each week.
One of those choices is between integrity and expediency.
Choosing integrity means we will speak our truth (with a lower-case “t”) and keep our promises in situations when it would be easier not to do so.
Integrity requires clarity about our beliefs, values, goals, priorities, ideas, and practices. In some circumstances it may require courage, or at least a careful calculation of the potential costs of saying what we think.
Expediency, on the other hand, causes stress, creates distrust, and favors short-term gains at the cost of long-term goals.
Integrity has several benefits:
• Integrity creates trust because leaders can be counted on to say what they think and do what they say.
• Integrity is contagious and energizes the school community. When principals and teachers speak their truths they motivate others to do the same.
• Integrity eliminates the stress caused by making promises that are extremely difficult or impossible to keep. And because feelings are infectious, calm and focused principals and teachers enable the school community to be more focused and productive.
When integrity becomes a core feature of the school community’s work, an important value is affirmed, relationships are strengthened, productivity is increased, and important goals are far more likely to be achieved, with students being the ultimate beneficiaries.