Real Leaders Have Integrity

Jann FreedUncategorized Leave a Comment

If you are in a position to influence the lives of others, this post is for you.  Since the most important person to lead is yourself, hopefully you will find it relevant.  
NOTE:  My next podcast will be this Friday, May 11th where I interview a Sage about living life on purpose and with meaning.  
[in- teg-ri-tee]
1.adherence to moral and ethical principles; soundness of moral character; honesty.
As an investor, my husband is a Warren Buffett follower.  I think he has read about every book, article, and annual report written either by Buffett or about him.  In addition, he has watched interviews and we even bought some interviews on DVDs that I used to share with my college students in courses.  He has also attended almost every annual meeting in Omaha for the last 25-30 years and always learns something of value.
I have attended a few annual meetings, read several articles and interviews, and watched interviews with Buffett.  Rather than investment advice, I am listening and reading for Buffett’s sage wisdom on life and living.  Since Buffett is a no-nonsense kind of person, he can make the complicated seem so simple.  Yet, his advice is so practical, but so valuable.  This blog post summarizes some themes Buffett emphasizes repeatedly that are worth repeating.
1.  Hire for integrity He says he looks for three characteristics in people:  energy, intelligence, and integrity.  And if they don’t have integrity, you want them dumb and lazy because the lack of integrity will do major damage to the culture and company.
2.  Your partner matters.  Buffett says who you decide to be your partner/spouse is the most important decision you will make for your quality of life and success.
3.  Your circle of friends matter.  He says who you hang around will rub off both in good ways and bad.  So pay attention to whom you associate.  They can lift you up or drag you down.  This is how Buffett and Charlie Munger expressed it to a 14 year old, but the advice applies regardless of age or stage of life.

“It’s better to hang out with people better than you. Pick out associates whose behavior is better than yours and you’ll drift in that direction.”

Then, Charlie Munger, Buffett’s longtime partner and vice chairman of Berkshire Hathaway, piped in, “If this gives you a little temporary unpopularity with your peer group, the hell with ’em.”

When my sons were in high school, I had an artist make little signs that I hung on their bedroom doors with expressions such as:

Tell the Truth

Be Kind.  

It always amazed me that they left them on their doors to this day.  They could have taken them down.  But I used to say to them “the most important thing was to tell the truth.”  When you can’t trust someone, it is hard to have a strong relationship.  You might love them and like them, but if you can’t trust them, the foundation falls out from under all conversations.  I also used to say being smart is important (and being cute was a bonus), but being honest was most important.   And I believe this is true personally as well as professionally.

Since leadership is a relationship, integrity (adherence to moral and ethical principles; soundness of moral character; honesty) matters.  Giving constructive feedback is tough as a manager, teacher, or parent.  I like the mantra:  Honesty with kindness.  We don’t have to be mean when giving feedback because the goal should be to learn and improve.

There is a plethora of leadership books and articles talking about the characteristics leaders need to have to be successful.  But according to Buffett it is simple:  Real leaders have integrity.  

Think about some people you trust and some whom you don’t trust. 

What is the difference? 

How does it affect relationships?  

How does trust or lack of trust affect the culture?

How does trust affect how work gets done?  

As a leader, what are you doing to build trust in your organization?





Billionaire Warren Buffett, chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, has lived by a set of awe-inspiring values and principles that has led to unbelievable success.

So whenever he imparts his wisdom, you want to tune in. As it relates to hiring the right people for your company, he said:

Somebody once said that in looking for people to hire, you look for three qualities: integrity, intelligence, and energy. And if you don’t have the first, the other two will kill you. You think about it; it’s true. If you hire somebody without [integrity], you really want them to be dumb and lazy.