In 2002, CEO of Tyco International Dennis Kozlowski delivered a commencement speech at Saint Anselm College. “You will be confronted with questions every day that test your morals . . . for your sake, do the right thing, not the easy thing.” He was indicted for tax evasion 17 days later.
Many leaders embrace the concept and ideal of integrity. Enter the terms ‘leadership’ and ‘integrity’ into Google and there are more than 190 million results. Definitions of integrity are vague, however many maintain that without it, no leader can be truly successful (Hambrick & Mason, 1984). In the Turknett Leadership Character Model, integrity is defined as standing up for what is right, keeping promises and telling the truth (Turknett, 2005).
In Attenborough’s Gandhi, we observe a man whose life’s work is to bring about independence for his beloved India through the embodiment of non-violence, civil disobedience and brotherhood. Gandhi is victorious, and Britain withdraws from India. Gandhi did not however consider himself successful. In the end, he saw his newly independent country torn apart. His purity of purpose, honesty and integrity were not enough to secure a unified India.
Yet, whilst integrity alone does not always lead to a successful outcome (Gentry, et al, 2012), Gandhi demonstrated a leadership style that captured the world’s imagination and heavily influenced future leaders such as Martin Luther King Jr., Aung San Suu Kyi, Chavez and Ho Chi Minh. Gandhi’s success cannot be measured in India alone. His advocacy of non-violence and right action echoed across time and showed us an alternative to violence, greed, power and war. It’s a lesson current leaders can continue to learn from.
Gentry, W., Cullen, K. & Altman, D. (2012). The Irony of Integrity. A study of the character strengths of leaders. Center for Creative Leadership White Paper. Retrieved 27 March, 2016, from http://insights.ccl.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/IronyOfIntegrity.pdf
Hambrick, D. C., & Mason, P. A. (1984). Upper echelons: The organization as a reflection of its top managers. Academy of Management Review, 9, 193–206.
Turknett, R., & Turknett, C. (2005). Decent People Decent Company: How to
Lead with Character at Work and in Life. Mountain View, CA: Davies-Black
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