Part 4 of GSE’s “What We Believe” Series:

Authenticity and integrity are universally agreed values we all know are important for leadership but how best do we determine that it exists? How do we identify these behaviours in others? How do we ensure we are demonstrating these behaviours most of the time?

An experienced colleague of mine has a rule for the appointment of very senior and key members of staff. He meets them 4 times. That might seem excessive and also difficult when you are recruiting a person at distance. The pandemic has certainly made this challenging, however the principles remain. We need to dig down and see the real person. An interview is not completely real including nerves and the artificial context of someone trying to present their “best self.” When we are searching to see if a person’s values, character and integrity are a good fit it really does take some time, and maybe even a little intuition.

Authenticity and Integrity - How do we really know?
Authenticity and Integrity – How do we really know?

Are we employing the person or the CV? Are we looking for a leader or a profile? Leaders need to be authentic human beings that relate to others. As Brene Brown says “Authenticity is the daily practice of letting go of who we think we’re supposed to be and embracing who we are.”

Authenticity and Integrity

When I share my BBQ theory with colleagues I guess I am really sharing the same idea. If, after spending 5 minutes with someone at a BBQ, or an informal setting, you are keen to continue an engaging conversation, they have probably passed test number one. If they are “good people” and all character traits appear to be proving that, then there is a good chance they have passed test number two. We all know that reference checks are tough to trust. Let’s face it, who openly provides referee contact details for supervisors that going to share negative or critical stories about them. But how, in an interview or a short time period, can we ensure we are choosing the right person.

Maybe the following questions, focussed on Authenticity and Integrity are helpful:

1. Tell me about a time when you were torn between doing the “right” thing for the long term verse making a choice that satisfied short term interests rather than long term goals. How did you react? 

2. Tell about a time when you were not completely trusted by others. What do you believe led to this? How did you react/respond?

3. Tell me about a specific time when you had to handle a very difficult problem that included matters related to fairness, authenticity, integrity or ethical issues. 

4. When was the last time you “broke rules” or chose not to follow agreed procedures? Is there every a time when that is OK? What was the situation and what did you do?

5. What would you do if you suspected that a colleague was not operating ethically or even acting illegally eg. stealing?

6. What would you do if you saw a colleague doing something you thought lacked integrity. What would you do?

7. Have you ever faced a situation where you did not trust a colleague/supervisor. Did it create tension between you? What was your response and how did you work to improve the situation. 

8. What is your preferred style of relationship with colleagues and supervisors? What do interactions look like? How do you manage times when opinions are different? How open/closed are you? How do you determine the right approach and in what contexts?

9. What are the most important values you appreciate when working in teams? Is this different in different contexts?How do you positively influence a team with different values to your own.

10. Have you ever faced a time when a “white lie” made sense? Share the story and your opinion about the place of “white lies” within professional/personal relationships and the workplace in general.

11. Other than your skills, motivation, expertise and the reputation I would read on your CV, what would your colleagues and supervisors say makes you most valuable?

12. Describe the characteristics of your best supervisor, or one that you wished you had. What sets them apart and why did they have so much impact on you and others?

It will come as no surprise that research has shown authentic leadership serves as the single strongest predictor of an employee’s job satisfaction, organisational commitment, and workplace happiness. It is an invaluable character trait and something that can literally “make or break” your organisation.

In Bruce J. Avolio and Tara S. Wernsing’s essay Practicing Authentic Leadershipthey outline three ways authentic leaders should practice self-awareness, authenticity and integrity:

  • Seek feedback from the environment
  • Use self-reflection to better understand your behaviour
  • Practice regular self-observation to stay aware of your feeling

In another article I recently published on Authenticity and Integrity, “Authentic Leadership – Character, Values and Integrity that Maximises Performance” I outlined four key areas of focus.

1. Know Who YOU Are  (“Self-Awareness”)

2. Be Genuine  (“Transparency”)

3. Fair and Balanced (“Considered”)

4. Ethical  (“Do the Morally Right Thing”)

How do we really know?

I guess we will not truly know until an appointed leader shows their true colours. After several months of leadership, or otherwise, we will see the genuine impact they have made but it is certainly better to invest some extra time in the beginning to ensure we are making a great selection than wait until it is all too late.

CEO and Education Expert Greg Parry

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Internationally renowned for his expertise in education leadership, Greg Parry’s vast experience includes leadership of projects for edu-cation institutions throughout Australia, the Middle East, the United States, India, Indonesia, Malaysia and China. Recognised for his numerous contributions in the education arena, Greg has received the Ministers Award for Excellence in School Leadership based on improvements in school performance and a range of successful principal training and leadership development programs, as well as the School of Excellence Award for Industry/School Partnerships and the School of Excellence Award for Technology Innovation. His company GSE (Global Services in Education) has been recognised as having the Best Global Brand in International Education in 2015 and 2016.

Considered one of the premier experts in his profession, Greg has trained teachers and principals throughout the world in areas such as critical thinking, language development and leadership. His expertise in school start up projects, leadership and curriculum development, has made him a sought after authority in these disciplines.

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