The best practices will fail to build the right spirit unless management bears witness for its own professed beliefs every time it appoints a man to a management job. The final proof of its sincerity and seriousness is uncompromising emphasis on integrity of character. For it is character through which leadership is exercised, it is character that sets the example and is imitated in turn. Character is not something a man can acquire; if he does not bring it to the job, he will never be able to do it. It is not something one can fool people about. The men with whom a man works and especially his subordinates know in a few weeks whether he has integrity or not. They may forgive a man a great deal: incompetence, ignorance, insecurity or bad manners. But they will not forgive him lack of integrity. Nor will they forgive higher management for choosing him.
Integrity may be difficult to define, but what constitutes lack of integrity of such seriousness as to disqualify a man for managerial position. A man should never be appointed to a managerial position if his vision focuses on people’s weaknesses rather than on their strengths. The man who always knows exactly what people cannot do, but never sees anything they can do, will undermine the spirit of his organization. Of course, a manger should have a clear grasp of the limitations of his people, but he should see these as limitations on what they can do and as challenges to them to do better. He should be realist; and no one is less realistic than the cynic.
A man should not be appointed if he is more interested in the question: Who is right? Than in the question: What is right? To put personality above the requirements of the work is corruption and corrupts. To ask, “who is right?” encourages subordinates to play safe, if not to play politics. Above all, it encourages them to “cover up” rather than to take corrective action as soon as they find out that they have made a mistake.
Management should not appoint a man who considers intelligence more important than integrity. For this is immaturity. It should never promote a man who has shown that he is afraid of strong subordinates. For this is weakness. It should never put into a management job a man who does not set high standards for his own work for that breeds contempt for the work and for management’s competence.
A man might himself know too little, perform poorly, lack judgment and ability, and yet not do damage as a manager. But if he lacks in character and integrity no matter how knowledgeable, how brilliant, how successful – he still destroys working environment and company’s image as well. He destroys people, the most valuable resource of the enterprise. He destroys spirit. And he destroys performance.
This is particularly true of the people at the head of an enterprise because the spirit of an organization is created from the top. If an organization is great in spirit, it is because the spirit of its top people is great. If it decays, it does so because the top rots; as the proverb has it “Trees die from the top”. In appointing people to top positions, integrity cannot be overemphasized. In fact, no one should be appointed unless management is willing to have his character serve as the model for all his subordinates.
In addition a manager with high integrity is also responsible to keep a watch on his subordinates if the matters involve financial transactions with outside agencies and pre-empt any losses that his organization is likely to incur. Keeping a blind eye in total good faith is also not desirable from a competent manager.—