Town & City is proud to introduce a continuing series
written by a longtime and greatly admired friend of the Texas
Municipal League. A frequent speaker at TML education events,
Randy combines more than twenty years of front-line leadership
and consulting experience with extensive research and writing
to deliver practical ideas that can be applied at many levels.
His expertise has made him an internationally respected guest
commentator, with appearances on CNN, PBS, Fox News, the ABC
Radio Network, and the BBC. He is also a prolific writer, and
his ideas have appeared in The Wall Street Journal, The
New York Times, Entrepreneur, Executive Excellence, Training & Development,
numerous newspapers, and many professional/trade association
Integrity-Driven Cities: How to Win the Battle
Those were the words used by a group of concerned citizens to
describe how they felt about their elected officials. Only months
earlier, the same officials had used the phrase to describe their
colleagues on the City Council who did not share their views
on a controversial subject. On another front, the city staff
wondered if Council could be trusted to support them as they
stepped up enforcement of code violations, and several Council
members privately discussed their concerns that staff might not
be giving them all the information they needed to make the best
The absence of trust is the friction that prevents individuals
and groups from working together toward a common cause. It causes
people to question everything and believe nothing. The result
is everyone protecting their own self-interests to the detriment
of the community’s greater needs.
Feelings of mistrust spring from questions about character,
competency, consistency, communication, and courage. Is this
person withholding information? Is that person competent to make
a good decision? Why is there inconsistency between word and
deed? Did that person lie to me to gain an unfair benefit, or
was it a simple mistake? Will this group have the political will
to support publicly what they have acknowledged privately?
Is mistrust a problem in your city?
You decide. What would be different if everyone involved in
making, influencing, and implementing decisions in our city could
be trusted to do what they were supposed to do, when they were
supposed to do it, and the way it is supposed to be done? If
the difference would be noticeable, you have a problem.
Here’s the news: the issues facing communities today are
more challenging and potentially divisive than at any time in
recent memory. Logic dictates that not everyone will agree on
every decision. Our responsibility demands that the citizens
we serve and colleagues with whom we interact, both elected and
appointed, have the right to trust us. Your community cannot
afford the distraction that occurs when others doubt your integrity.
What is Integrity
For many, the word integrity is synonymous
with ethics. That is a critical piece of it,
but integrity goes beyond personal or organizational character
to include competence and consistency.
World Dictionary defines integrity as, “the
quality or state of being complete; wholeness; the quality
or state of being unimpaired; and being of sound moral principle.”
Leaders and organizations adopting this broader definition deliver
integrity in their products, services, and relationships. They:
make every decision on the basis of what’s right rather
than who’s right
provide quality services and embrace continuous improvement
in all performance areas because it is their obligation to
those they serve
maintain a culture where ethical behavior and doing what
is right is expected and rewarded
operate in an open, transparent manner with all constituencies
deliver on promises (implied and explicit) to all constituent
comply with the spirit of applicable regulations rather than
the minimum requirements
ensure accountability for integrity at every level of the
As a result, they experience…
the ability to openly discuss substantive issues without
fear of reprisal
increased morale, commitment, and productivity
improved resource utilization
confidence in compliance with laws and regulations
more effective response to crisis situations
How Integrity-Driven Leaders and Organizations are Different
All great leaders create focus with clear goals and high expectations.
They expect results, and they ensure effective execution of
well-designed strategies. Integrity-driven leaders simply approach
their leadership responsibilities from a different perspective.
Their power comes from trust rather than fear. They pay attention
to relationships as well as results, and they stress credibility
rather than control. As a result, they generate confidence
from others instead of skepticism and cynicism.
Stephen Carter asserts in his book, Integrity,
that we admire integrity in our leaders because of their forthrightness,
steadfastness, consistency, compassion, and the reliability
of their commitments.
Leaders, organizations, and communities operating with a
heightened sense of integrity are no less focused on results.
They simply understand that short-term results without the
long-term trust from all stakeholders create an environment
where on-going success is not sustainable.
That makes the quest for integrity – as defined by Webster – the
most important goal to which every community can aspire.
Are You Integrity-Driven?
Complete the assessment below to determine if your Council
and/or organization are laying the foundation for integrity.
Rate yourself on a scale of 1 to 5 with “5” being
excellent and “1” being needs improvement.
Decisions are made based
on “what’s right
for all parties” and not on the basis of tradition,
expediency, or political positioning.
People at all levels of the organization clearly
understand what is expected of them in areas of productivity,
quality, service, job performance, and integrity.
Telling the truth is rewarded. The organization does
not shoot messengers or avoid the truth to protect
the illusion of success.
Leaders and managers are held accountable for the
manner in which results are achieved in addition to
the results themselves.
leaders set a good example of integrity.
Individuals are rewarded for their performance that
The organization deals swiftly with individual performance
that violates the trust of others.
The organization has a reputation for honesty and
living its values.
Everyone is united behind a common mission and vision
that promotes integrity in products, services, and
The organization acts responsibly toward the welfare
of the community as a whole.
If your score is 40 or above, you are doing a terrific
job of demonstrating your integrity. There may be a few areas
you want to fine tune, but you are doing well.
If you scored between 30 and 40, you’re doing a good
job overall, but there are probably a few specific areas
on which you should work.
If your organization scored below 30, it is time to take
immediate steps to improve your performance. The constituents
you serve will appreciate your effort, and your organization
will become more effective.
Making Integrity a Way of Life
A decision to make integrity the cornerstone of your organization’s
operation begins with the leader and is driven throughout the organization
by performance and execution. Here are seven strategies to help you
start and continue your journey.
State your expectations clearly. Everyone
must understand your expectations and their contribution to driving
integrity through every aspect of your operation. Communicate in
an open, honest manner so everyone knows their obligation to citizens
and each other. Avoid hype. Admit that you are constantly working
on your own performance, and ask for everyone’s commitment
to becoming a city that demonstrates integrity in word and deed.
Pay attention to structure and processes. Structure
and systems create habits that ensure consistency when human breakdowns
seminar participant made the case for aligning structure and processes
with these words, “how do they expect us to trust them when
the policies say one thing, but we are asked to do something different
Everything is ultimately connected. The integrity
of the whole is called into questions when we see inconsistencies
among the various parts. Less than transparent governance on one
issue influences attitudes and perceptions on every issue. Allowing
disrespectful treatment of employees in one area eventually affects
other areas. Each area of the operation should be evaluated by
the following questions: Are we doing what we said we would do?
Are we providing what we said we would provide? Are we operating
in a manner that builds trust with those we serve?
Create accountability and rewards. Acting
with integrity must mean something. Deal quickly with those who
violate the organization’s
standards. And remember that fear of consequences can also create
an environment where individuals work to avoid getting caught.
Make honoring commitments and the ability to build trust among
diverse groups a criterion for promotion. Recognize and reward
those who demonstrate their integrity in a difficult situation,
even when the result is not as you would have hoped. Behavior that
is recognized is repeated.
Provide the skills and tools to
put principles into practice. Even the best system can malfunction
or be improved. People create
systems, and good intentions can go awry when either skills or
tools are absent. Start with the Council and city leadership. Then
move through the entire organization.
Talk about integrity often. How
often do you speak about your organization’s
key performance results and budget? How often do you speak about
the importance of integrity in your long-term success? Hanging
a values statement on the wall and distributing wallet cards are
not enough. Very few take the time to stand in the hallway or search
their wallets to read the values statement when they face a difficult
choice. Don’t start a new program. Create stories and legends
about those who achieved superior results while modeling integrity.
Talk about the challenges of earning and maintaining the trust
of others. The more attention leaders give to the importance of
integrity, the more important it will become in the organization.
bad news. The test of a healthy organization is not the
absence of problems. It is the ability to address them in a positive
manner. The permission to share bad news without fear of retribution
promotes an honest, open environment that continually strives to
improve. As good as your organization is today; there is a strong
chance that someone is withholding information that can make it
Don’t forget personal leadership. Leadership
is about the ability to influence. Nothing more and nothing less.
Leadership has very little to do with position and everything to
do with your ability to influence others. Everyone is watching.
They judge the sincerity of your actions very quickly and will
take their support elsewhere unless they see integrity in your
All leadership begins with personal leadership.
Ralph Waldo Emerson once said of a guest, "The louder he spoke
of his honor, the faster we counted our spoons." That
statement is as relevant today as it was when it was first made
in 1860. Who we are – at our
core – matters just as much as the ability to communicate, make
good decisions, or implement sound practices.
The great American statesman Henry Clay said, “Government is
a trust, and the officers of government are trustees, and both the
trust and the trustees are created for the benefit of the people.”
The continued success and survival of our municipal organizations
and communities as a whole depends on creating relationships. There
can be no transformation without trust, and no trust without integrity.
Randy Pennington helps leaders create cultures focused
on results, relationships, and accountability. He is author of Results
Rule! Build a Culture that Blows the Competition Away and On
My Honor, I Will: Leading with Integrity In Changing Times.
For additional information, contact him at 972-980-9857, email@example.com, www.penningtongroup-cities.com,