Integrity is Essential in Leadership

By Richi Gil
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In this fourth episode of the Conscious Conversations series, Richi Gil discusses six questions about the importance of integrity in leadership.

We will dive deeper into exploring the role of integrity in leadership, the importance of aligning values and behavior, and why discipline is a critical aspect of this topic.

Below you can listen to the full conversation.

Or you can skip ahead to any of the questions.

What role does integrity play in leadership?

Why is it important to align your behavior with your values?

Why is “winning at all cost” not a long-term strategy?

What impact does integrity or success beyond success have on an organizational culture?

What role does discipline play?

Why do we often sacrifice unconsciously the most important values that motivate our behavior?

Transcription

Barbie:

Welcome to the Conscious Conversations series. This is episode 4 and today I am speaking with Richi Gil, one of Axialent’s founding partners and master facilitator. Richi works with senior leaders and their teams, coaching and facilitating processes that helped these teams significantly improve their own and their organizations’ performance. He is also a culture expert and helps clients develop the behaviors, symbols, and systems required to accomplish the desired business strategies.

Richi is an intense sportsman and has participated in several international marathons, holding three 05’ mark in the 26.2 miles. Richi works at integrating the physical, cognitive and spiritual realms into a successful and balanced life.
In today’s episode, we talk about the importance of integrity in leadership.

Barbie:

What role does integrity play in leadership?

Richi:

Hi, Barbie. Nice talking to you and the audience. That’s an interesting question. When we teach the concept of being a player in our workshops, sometimes people walk away thinking, “If I’m a player, everything is gonna work out in my life. I’m gonna accomplish the results I’m striving for. Basically, I’m gonna get what I want.” Unfortunately, life is more complex than that and does not quite work that way. Why? Because there are certain aspects that you don’t control and that will operate even though you act as a player 100% of the time. You may choose to lower your prices, you may choose to improve your quality. You may choose to improve your processes, your manufacturing processes. But so can your competitors. So, people, clients ultimately will choose whether they’ll buy from you or from them, so it’s not guaranteed that you will accomplish your numbers and you will make the budget and that you will accomplish what you want.

Richi:

Therefore, you need a code that’s deeper than that that will allow you to stay on track even when you know that the ultimate result is not completely up to you. As the song of Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young says, “You who are on the road must have a code that you can live by.” Meaning that as a leader, you can only look inside yourself when you have to make difficult choices, as I said before, knowing that the ultimate result is not up to you 100%, you can influence that result. And the way you do that, the way you maximize the chances of achieving what you want, is by turning to your own code of values, your own set of values that you wish to live by. When you’re a leader, currently the buck stops here. There is nowhere else to turn for advice.

Richi:        Then integrity or understood as the alignment of my behaviors with my values is what guides me as a leader, and that will maximize … I can talk a little bit more about that later, that will maximize my chances of achieving my goal, and yet understanding that I can’t control that and focusing on what I can control which is the way I act, the way I appear in the world.

Barbie:

Why is it important to align your behavior with your values?

Richi:

I like to say because, ultimately, when you become conscious and self-aware, it’s the only game in town. If you want to be a leader and be proud of your actions and of the service you are offering to others and how you are acting and showing up in the world. As I said before, while you can not guarantee you will accomplish your goals, you can, moment by moment, choose how to respond in alignment with that that is important to you, your values. And then you choose a behavior that will honor those. I want to make a comment here because you could argue that you could have certain values that are, in some extremist religions or even terrorist organizations, you could have people believe, “Well, if I kill this many, I will go straight to Heaven and enjoy Nirvana forever.” That integrity is unethical for me because my way of seeing, of checking whether values are ethical or not is do they support life or not? So if I am acting in alignment with a set of values that support life and the wellbeing of others, I would say that my behavior is in integrity and ethical. And this is what leaders, in my opinion, in my humble opinion, should strive for.

Richi:

As I said before, I do believe, because one of my key values is excellence, excellence means I will pursue my goals to the best of my abilities and I will give it all to accomplish what I want, what I’m striving for, knowing that it’s not fully up to me. And yet, pursuing my goals, acting in integrity with my values, will maximize the opportunity to accomplish what I want. So it’s not true what we sometimes hear in our workshops that if you pursue behavior in alignment with your values, which we call success beyond success, will make you stop pursuing your goals. It works totally the opposite way in my experience.

Barbie:

Why is winning at all cost not a long-term strategy?

Richi:

That’s a great question. In soccer, for example, in futbol, everybody wants to win. However, you don’t want to win at any cost. Let’s put it this way, you shouldn’t want to win at any cost. You could break your adversary’s leg, but that would be getting an unfair advantage, not playing by the rules of the game. So in the short-term, if you are competing with some competitor that has absolutely no boundaries, he could, in the short-term, have more degrees of freedom than you have because for you there are certain boundaries that you will not overstep. And maybe he would, and maybe he could get an unfair advantage, or he could get greater degrees of freedom in the short-term.

Richi:

My claim is that in the longer term, in the medium and long-term, it is impossible to win if you are not behaving ethically and in integrity with your values. There are many examples in the business world. Enron, Tyco, WorldCom, they all had a very nice list of values hanging from the wall, and still, that could not prevent the unethical behavior of the executives. I like to claim that the only way to success in the longer term is by pursuing success beyond success as a long-term strategy. As I say, that does not guarantee that moment by moment in the short-term, when you are competing with people that are willing to behave unethically, now the question is, even if that would be possible, who do you want to show up as a leader? What will make you proud of your actions when you have to look at your legacy and how you’re gonna be remembered? And what is the impact that you are creating in the world? Are you willing to step over those boundaries? Those are very deep questions to ask yourself.

 

Barbie:

What impact does integrity of success beyond success have on an organizational culture?

Richi:

When people act in alignment with their values, you start to create a culture where the pursuit of the goals is done within the ethical limits of those values. In my opinion, this creates a virtuous circle where people pursue the goals to the best of their abilities. As I said before, I will make the most to strive for excellence at every level in the organization. That will maximize the chance to accomplish the goals that we are pursuing.

Richi:

At the same time, knowing that it’s not guaranteed that we will get there because success is contingent. While success beyond success is unconditional, dependent only on self-determined principles which are the alignment of behaviors with the values, individual values, and also the values of the organization. Ultimately, when you have leaders and the people overall in a company behaving like that, you start to create a culture of integrity where the organization as a whole will behave within the ethical constraints of a set of values. That will, in turn, allow the organization most likely to accomplish its goals.

Barbie:

What role does discipline play?

Richi:

Discipline is critical. When you speak about success beyond success, as I was saying before that success beyond success will normally not … or sometimes it will not pay off in the short term, but more in the … when you look at the situation as a process, or as a needing to longer term, discipline is critical. Because discipline is the capacity to persist or not on a course of action. Even when you are … when you know that the rewards are going to come later in the future, it’s the difference between immediate gratification and being able to postpone gratification.

Richi:

As you probably read, Barbie, that there were experiments done with children, and it’s called Marshmallow Experiment, where they expose different children to marshmallows and they were given an instruction where they could eat a marshmallow and then … or they could not eat it and they would get two later on in time. And then the person running the experiment would leave the room. Certain children ate the marshmallow right away, and although some children … they all wanted to eat the marshmallow, but some of them could restrain themselves and delay the gratification because they knew they were going to get two later in time.

Richi:

Those kids were then followed throughout their lives, all the kids were followed over their lives, and those who were able to have the discipline to delay the gratification then performed a lot better in many of their endeavors than others. So and this is true also for adults, for grown-up people, and leaders, and executives that work in companies. Sometimes having the discipline to delay achieving immediate results will help you in the longer term.

Barbie:

Why do we often sacrifice unconsciously the most important values that motivate our behavior?

Richi:

I think you are answering that question in the question, Barie. And for me, the answer is because we become unconscious. And when you go unconscious, it’s like there is nobody home and then you do what you do. And sometimes you end up sacrificing the higher to the lower, which I call sacrilege. And I believe that the reason we do that is simply because we go unconscious. Because then we suddenly wake up and realize the harm we have done and the results we have created around us. And we don’t feel proud. We feel bad about ourselves. And that’s the way we learn. And then we will probably do it again, but we will catch ourselves earlier. And that’s how you go about the process of becoming and acting in a more conscious way.

Richi:

In some of our workshops we do an exercise to try to make a conscious, the unconscious. Now, we all have our values of things that we hold in high regard. We run an exercise that’s called the Admirable Characters. Where we invite participants to select people alive or dead, real or fictional that they admire in their lives. And people come up with different types of … all different types of characters. [inaudible 00:01:45]. Again, the William Wallace, etc etc etc. And when they list the qualities that they admire in this and these characters, those qualities are always almost in 100% of the time, process qualities. They admire the valor, their persistence, the humility, the capacity to love others, their service, etc etc etc. We have yet to find people in our workshops … and we have done this many, many times. Probably with thousands of participants, that they admire power, money, being a celebrity. Nobody strives for that when you really look inside yourself.

Richi:

And as we say in our philosophy, those that you admire in others is your golden shadow. It is the same thing that you admire and that you possess yourself. So, this is a very beautiful exercise where we help participants connect to their own set of values and ethical principles by which they can choose to run their lives. And then, the second part of the exercise is even more revealing, because there we ask participants to think which were the circumstances that allowed those admired characters to display those values that they admire so much. And normally, the conditions that will enable those values to shine are conditions of difficulty. Conditions of the challenge. Conditions where those values are put to the test. So, we like to say anybody can sail in calm waters, but when the sea gets stormy these set of principles and values are the ones that keep you steady. And keeping your course.

Richi:

And so, I think it was a long answer to a short question. But, I really connect with this principle in our philosophy and I love to address this with participants and getting into deeper conversations and dialogues with them about this. Because this really, really, this can change your life.

 

 

 

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