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Why integrity is key

Jo Ouston from Jo Ouston & Co on why being true to yourself gives you better results

In the aftermath of the recent local government and European election results – described by many as an earthquake – I was struck by a comment from Lynne Featherstone who said “I think that all of us have got to the point were we are so guarded, so on-message that we seem to have lost some of our humanity”. 

Indeed, it is noticeable that when politicians leave office they tend to feel much freer to be themselves and express their personal views and as a result they become far more engaging. 

If people seem to be spouting a party line they come across as bland, mechanical or unconvincing. Often we find ourselves unimpressed, indifferent and unmoved by this.  On the other hand, we can have almost too much emotion. Where there is a desire for quick results and people put on an act to create an impression, they come across as shallow or insincere. And often brittle too – unsettled and put off their stride if challenged.

There is a big difference between putting on a show – a studied performance – and the credibility that comes from being who you are – having personal presence and authenticity.

I cherish an image given to me by an engineer client some years ago. He compared the process to tempering steel. If you want to make a very sharp blade, you plunge the hot steel into cold water quenching it very quickly. You can achieve a sharp edge, but it is brittle. However, if you want to create a flexible durable blade, you don’t rush it. You temper the steel slowly in warm oil.

We are inclined to trust people who are ‘well tempered’ – those who we feel are aligned in what they think, what they say and what they do. This integrity enables people to be confident in what they stand for. It is what makes it easier to work well with others and it is ultimately the basis of trusted leadership.

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