This week’s post started out heavily influenced by my current read, Staring Down the Wolf by Mark Divine. In summary, the book is based on his lessons from his time as a Navy Seal and his business adventures, using this to overcome the mental and behavioural limitations that hold leaders from building excellent teams. I am envious of his experience as he paints the Navy Seals as the ideal personal development experience. It comes off as so exciting how the challenges they go through are specifically set to sieve, mould and smelt them into the most emotionally aware, driven, responsible and trustworthy individuals on the planet. It is very American.
I earlier talked about setting your standards and how this is the key to integrity. A lesson I forgot to repeat is that people treat you how you allow them to treat you. If you show that you will accept mediocre work, they will give you mediocre work. If you show you have a mission and a purpose, then the people around you will join in and pick their position to lead, follow or get out of the way. My favourite story on integrity is about a government office that’s known for its corrupt practices. The story has it of a certain official who was sent to that office and despite the notoriety, he was a man of integrity. Of course, the rest of the office was quick to explain how things work and his response was “That’s cool, but this is how I work.” Over time, the office let him be and, even better, the word spread around that if you wanted to do things the right way, got to ‘Pastor’s’ office. He refused to conform and I bet that what the story doesn’t tell is that he probably had a few converts as well.
Last week I mentioned that the standard of integrity starts with the little things. I should add that it is the little things done by the biggest people that influence this standard of integrity.
When we think of government, especially in Kenya the last thing on your mind is to trust the leadership. Integrity is a word in the constitution, not in the corridors of power. There is a trickle-down effect of this, easily seen in the ballooned “hustler” mentality over the last 10 years. Last week I mentioned that the standard of integrity starts with the little things. I should add that it is the little things done by the biggest people that influence this standard of integrity. If you have watched Lion King, when Simba has the talk with his father, he is told about the circle of life and what it means to be king. I admit that I watched the recent reboot and though I did not cry as much as I did with the original one, that speech was so deeply profound with knowing what I know now. We all need a Lion King refresher. But I digress. The point- on the little things and circle of life, is that integrity has a ripple effect. The consequences of it, either way, reaches farther than you.
Back to the book, he highlights the second commitment, Trust, about achieving this with your teams through transparency, humility and follow through. I had a boss who would hate being copied in emails to a point where he would not respond if copied in. Thereafter, once a decision was made, he would protest that he was not consulted. It’s a perfect case study of trust because as how would you follow such an unclear path? I didn’t understand this because, in every other place that I worked, transparency was a given. We are a team, we all know what is going on, we all pitch in and are in agreement. Transparency= unity of purpose. Of course, unless your purpose is questionable but that’s a post for another day.
He opines that a leader should be a humble narcissist: humble because you are human and have vulnerabilities; narcissist because you have to be able to cheer yourself on.
While listening to the explanation on humility, it reminded me of Adam Grant’s talk on Givers and Takers. He opines that a leader should be a humble narcissist: humble because you are human and have vulnerabilities; narcissist because you have to be able to cheer yourself on. Most people resist showing weakness, we fear that they can be used against us so we must remain either stoic or fear-inducing ourselves. This Ted talk is enough to answer that fear- Brene Brown and the Power of Vulnerability. The narcissism aspect also has a disclaimer on it being the difference between, narcissism, false confidence and real confidence. Take some time out to introspect honestly and you will figure out which fear wolf you need to face.
Follow through. This was a tough one for me because I it is my weakest point. Mark Divine specifically poses that you should not commit unless you are sure to follow through or find a solution in any eventuality. I am a big victim of the positivity bias. If we agree to do something, I will take your word for it and assume that you are aware of your commitment. In a space where I am easily distracted by a new task, I will let you be with the assumption that you are aware that X, Y, or Z is on your to-do list. Of course, there are exceptions; I know that my boss running two departments will need reminders for approvals. On the flip side, if it’s your job to do it, why do you need to be chased on it? And that lack of general commitment can really kill my motivation and I let myself down in not following through. So naturally, that’s my current personal challenge to ensure that I follow through better.
If you choose to look closely enough, you will see examples of persons aspiring to integrity and that it is not impossible for you as well.
The thing about integrity is like most habits, it’s better to learn it from seeing it in practice rather than theorising about it. The more I wrote this post, the more I recalled the different ways I have been in a beneficial position to see it in practice and be inspired that it is still an attainable standard. Too many of us still hold it at an arm’s length because we have accepted a certain narrative and stereotype about the industries and cultures that we work in. If you choose to look closely enough, you will see examples of persons aspiring to integrity and that it is not impossible for you as well.