Personal Integrity is Key for Agile Leaders

An analogy we like to use about building trust and integrity is having change in your pocket. Every time you do something that builds trust or helps people align with you, you collect change in your pocket. It could be a quarter here or a dime there for your promises made and kept.

You want to continuously build the amount of change you have, for there will be times – and hopefully not often – where you’ll have to give back some of that change for missing a commitment or some other deficit. The key is making sure you’ve built enough integrity and credibility that when you make those mistakes, people will understand. Everyone makes mistakes. Your goal is to make them rare: to always have change in your pocket.

Making Mistakes Count

Many leaders make mistakes without establishing a level of integrity and credibility. Many don’t feel they have to establish their persona in the eyes of others. They view themselves as the most senior people in the room who don’t require feedback or a need to explain themselves.

John Maxwell once said, “The respect that leadership must have requires that one’s ethics be without question. A leader not only stays above the line between right and wrong, he stays well clear of the gray areas.”  In Warren Buffet’s words, “In looking for people to hire, look for three qualities: integrity, intelligence, and energy. And if they don’t have the first one, the other two will kill you.”

Personal Integrity is a foundational attribute we focus on when defining an Agile Leader. A leader’s integrity is often based on one’s leadership presence and the principles followed. We believe one’s personal brand, trustworthiness, ethical resolve, and communication and transparency are key to being viewed as a leader with Personal Integrity. 

Booher Research surveyed over 200 professionals in a variety of industries to ask them their reasons for wanting to increase their personal presence.  Forty-eight percent said their reason was either to increase their credibility or sell their ideas and projects. According to Booher, that percent of respondents hasn’t changed over the past 30 years. Additionally, when participants were asked, “In general, how much does someone’s personal presence affect how much credibility they have with you?” almost 75 percent replied, “A great deal.”

What Does This Mean For Agile Leaders?

Agile Leaders convey their unique presence through their values. They make and meet commitments while demonstrating ethical resolve in every circumstance. It is the primary quality that gains the loyalty and trust of employees. They act with resilience and determination even when decisions may not be popular. They demonstrate genuine curiosity, active listening, and transparency when engaging with others by quieting their inner voice, focusing on the person, listening to understand, and repeating what they said.

We believe that when Agile Leaders establish their leadership presence and define the principles they follow. They lead with integrity through their personal brand, their trustworthiness, their ethical resolve, and their communication and transparency. But what exactly does Leading with Integrity look like? It’s actually a combination of many behaviors and practices, including:

  • Leading by example and being a role model to others. This defines your personal brand and presence in the eyes of others.
  • Having the consistency of being honest and trustworthy in all your actions.
  • Following through on commitments and doing the right thing.
  • Demonstrating ethical resolve.
  • Communicating with intention and transparency in all situations and in all formats, whether spoken or written.

Agile leaders realize that their Personal Integrity as reflected by their words, actions, decisions, and methodologies help to create their organizations’ true values and culture. Studies show this attribute extends benefits to both leaders and their organization.

  • Research has linked greater integrity with increased workplace performance.
  • Leaders with integrity foster greater trust and satisfaction from their direct reports, who are more likely to follow suit.
  • Employees serving under leaders with high integrity demonstrate more positive workplace behaviors (e.g., helping others during busy periods) and fewer negative workplace behaviors (e.g., falsely calling in sick).
  • Employees who trust their leaders to have integrity are likely to work harder, perform better, and have greater company loyalty.


The journey to become an agile leader is rife with complexity and ambiguity. One of the key elements that must be established is a level of trust and personal integrity.  Leaders who lead ON PURPOSE understand the importance of building credibility.  If you want to be a leader others will follow, trust and integrity is where you need to start.

In our book, Leadership ON PURPOSE, we provide rationale and a roadmap, tips and techniques for developing the six attributes of agile leaders that you and your leaders will need to attract, inspire and retain the best talent. Learn more here