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The Three Foundations of Great Leadership, A Great OrganiSation & A Great Life
Great Leadership begins and ends with Authenticity, Integrity and Being Non-Self-Centred in Life.
Steven Philip Warner | Issue Date - 01/08/2011

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I will devote my remarks to three topics. What I will say comes from joint research with my co-author Werner Erhard over the last eight years. I will focus today on the "Three Foundations" of:

1. Great leadership;
2. A Great organisation; and
3. A great personal life.

Those Three Foundations are:
1. Integrity; 2. Authenticity; and 3. Committed to something bigger than oneself.

I wish I had been exposed to these themes when I was at a young stage in my own life. At 71 it is now clear that I could have avoided much personal drama and difficulty – most of which I created.

1 – Integrity

By integrity, I do not mean the normal concept of integrity, which makes integrity a virtue that is confounded with moral and ethical behaviour. By integrity, I mean the purely positive state of being whole, complete, unbroken, sound, perfect condition. For a human being (or any human entity) this is a matter of one’s word – nothing more and nothing less.

Our Law of Integrity states: As integrity (whole and complete) declines, workability declines, and as workability declines, value (or more generally, the opportunity for performance) declines. Thus the maximisation of whatever performance measure you choose requires integrity. Violating the Law of Integrity generates painful consequences just as surely as violating the law of gravity. Put simply (and somewhat overstated): “Without integrity nothing works.”

Think of this as a heuristic (it is not literally true): But if you or your family, or your organisation operate in life as though this heuristic is true, performance (however defined for any one of these) will increase dramatically – easily in the range of 100% to 500%! And note that the impact of integrity extends to the quality of your life – your happiness.

The relation between integrity and oneself:
It is my word through which I define and express myself, both for myself, and for others. It is not too much to say that who I am is my word. It follows that to be whole and complete as a person, my word to myself and others must be whole and complete. In this new model of integrity, being whole and complete is achieved by keeping your word, or, when you will not be keeping your word, then honouring your word. By honouring your word, I mean that when you will not be keeping your word you (1) immediately inform all those counting on you to keep your word that you will not be keeping it. And (2) you clean up the mess that you have caused in their lives by not keeping your word. This is the actionable pathway to being a person or organisation of integrity. Integrity maintains you as a whole and complete human being. It creates workability in one’s life, and finally it generates trust in you by others, and does so almost immediately.

What is it like to be whole and complete as a person? When you honour your word to yourself and others:

You are at peace with yourself, and therefore act from a place where you are at peace with others and the world – even those who disagree with or might threaten you.
You live without fear for your selfhood – that is, who you are as a person.
You experience no fear of losing the admiration of others.
You do not feel the pressure to be right all the time; you act with humility.
Everything or anything that someone else might say is OK for consideration.
You feel no need to defend, explain, or rationalise yourself. You are able to learn.

This state of affairs is often mistaken as mere self cofidence rather than the courage that comes from being whole and complete – that is, from being a man or woman of integrity. Being whole and complete as a person is thus critically important to living a great life and to being a great leader. (Remember, leadership starts with being the leader of your own life.)

And, being whole and complete is one of the foundations for being a great organisation.

2 – Authenticity

Quoting my Harvard colleague, Professor Chris Argyris who (after 40 years of studying us human beings) says on the subject of our inauthenticity: “Put simply, people consistently act inconsistently, unaware of the contradiction between their espoused theory and their theory-in-use, between the way they think they are acting, and the way they really act.” [Harvard Business Review, “Teaching Smart People How to Learn” (1991, pp. 99-109)]

And if you think this does not apply to you, you are fooling yourself about fooling yourself. Common examples of being inauthentic include pretending to be some way you are not actually being – that is, hiding what you actually think or feel, covering up what is actually going on with you, or covering up something that happened or didn’t happen in your life. This is thought of as a façade or a face you put on. Because it is painful to be caught being inauthentic, everyone goes to great lengths to avoid revealing their inauthenticities. This means we are inauthentic about being inauthentic.

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