Why Is Integrity Important in Leadership?

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What is ethical leadership and why is it important? And, how is integrity in leadership integral to diversity, equity, and inclusion?

The link between integrity and trust is essential in the leader-employee relationship. Leaders are judged on character and competence, while employees associate integrity with kindness and having good intentions as opposed to selfish motives.

To some, the best leadership traits can be summed up under the umbrella of entrepreneurial leadership. These traits include navigating uncertainty, exploring ambiguity, and managing risk. And, the best entrepreneurial leaders know how to adapt, change, and innovate, especially in times of crisis.

While that is all true, it still does not answer the question: Why is integrity important in leadership?

To answer those questions, we explored how integrity in leadership plays out in different settings.

Conscious Leadership

Babson Professor Raj Sisodia believes that organizations can practice conscious leadership as a way to benefit the individual, the company, and society, as well as increase profits. Sisodia is the founder and leader of the Conscious Capitalism movement—based on his book by the same name—and teaches marketing at Babson.



In his latest book, The Healing Organization, Sisodia imagines a world where organizations act in the best interests of their customers, and encourages them to stand up for “fairness, truth, beauty, integrity, and basic goodness.”

He describes organizations with employees who love coming to work, and passionately loyal customers. These companies make a positive difference in the communities they serve, and they preserve and restore the ecosystems in which they operate.

Of course, this requires leaders who act with integrity, honesty, and kindness. The result? Happy and engaged employees, loyal customers, communities rewarded, and a restored ecosystem. And, profits often follow.

Join Professor Raj Sisodia for his online program, Conscious Leadership: Leading with Authenticity and Purpose, June 8-29, 2021.

Values-Based Leadership

We also can see this in the work Babson does around values-based leadership. Mary C. Gentile is a senior fellow in social innovation. She is author of Giving Voice to Values: How to Speak Your Mind When You Know What’s Right. She gets to the question: What is ethical leadership and why is it important?

“Giving voice to values is a new approach, an innovative approach, to thinking about, talking about, and teaching about how we can act on our values in the workplace,” said Gentile.

The Giving Values to Voices approach to values-driven leadership understands that simply building awareness is insufficient. What also is needed is the preparation for effective, values-driven action.

To take values-driven action, leaders must create scripts and implement plans for responding to the commonly heard reasons for questionable practices. And, integrity in leadership is an essential ingredient to navigating these values conflicts.

And, importantly, the Giving Voice to Values approach to values conflicts provides individual managers and business leaders with the opportunity to work together to respond to these rationalizations.

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee

A group of Babson faculty are working to lead change, brought on by the recent examples of social injustice in our society. For starters, they have formed a new Committee on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.

This committee is named Dean of Faculty, Faculty Committee for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, and Development. Or, DoF Inclusive Excellence Committee, for short.

“There is a mandate from the world for Babson to lead the change we envision.”
Ken Matsuno, Murata Vice President of Academic Affairs and Dean of the College

Babson recognizes that it is no longer acceptable to say the right things without action.

“We should have done this yesterday,” said Associate Professor Tina Opie, recently named chair.

The committee is planning strategic efforts to embed diversity, equity, and inclusion into core components of the faculty, planning, and curriculum. This effort underscores the need for integrity in leadership—when doing the right thing is simply the right thing to do.

“There is a mandate from the world for Babson to lead the change we envision,” said Murata Vice President of Academic Affairs and Dean of the College Ken Matsuno. “We must do better.”

The goal? That Babson becomes “Babson Brave,” what Opie refers to as an environment in which “every graduate is known to be fluent in diversity, equity, and inclusion,” said Opie.

This is not the easy thing to do, but it’s the right thing to do. And, it takes, above all else, integrity.

Leaders who demonstrate integrity garner trust among their colleagues. They aren’t afraid of the truth, and they stand up for what they believe in. This, in turn, leads to loyal customers, increased profits, and a better world for all.

Posted in Research & Insights

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