Leadership, Integrity and Conflict. By: Badaracco & Ellsworth

25 01 2010

I am repeatedly struck by how many outstanding corporate leaders have strong religious beliefs.”

– Ralph Bailey, former chairman of Conoco

What is integrity?

This article seems to present a common sense, yet maybe unknown, conclusion about the needed character qualities of upper management.  Is this a new approach to thinking about strategy? Well, if strategists thought that only their brains could give them success, this writing says there is something far more deeper that will determine their long-term success.  What is THAT something? Integrity.  Integrity, which comes from inner direction, often times spiritual, equates to what we call ‘ethics.’  These ethics and this integrity help leaders to manage conflict much more effectively.

The relationship between conflict and strategy can be seen in this way:  Strategy happens when “resolving all those dilemmas (conflicts) successfully is, at bottom, a matter of pursuing integrity – consistency among aims, values and actions – through the uncertainties, vagaries and surprises of management work.”  By managing conflict well, a leader can shine his/her beliefs of integrity and ethics to everyone, building trust and commitment from employees towards the bigger workings of strategy.

An effective leader needs an internal lens (integrity and ethics) but also must be able to see the workings of his company as a whole and how he can best encourage everyone in it to get involved and give unselfishly to the goals of the business.  As the article stated about this matter:  “A central task of leadership is to prevent people from becoming isolated and oriented solely towards their own needs.”

This strategic literature raises the question:  What qualities make a good strategist or leader in upper management?  –Is it mainly smarts?  Is it their character?

More than even companies who have been found corrupt like Enron, those who could benefit from the ideas of this article include public figures in the spotlight who find their private lives exposed because of their misconduct.  As for businesses, to find the path of integrity and something/someone that upper management personnel can be dependent on for inner direction, will pose a great impact on the internal culture and external reputation a company is bound to define for itself.

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