Well…it’s been quite a week in the world today, hasn’t it? I’m quite literally, rolling with the punches. Many of you are likely in the same position as I: working from home, socially distanced from the world around us. As I always do when times get uncertain, I took time to sit with myself for a moment to reorganize before taking action. My thoughts this time gravitated toward the past. During my time as a junior officer in the Marines, uncertainty was almost always prevalent. We were in a time of war, and nothing was cookie cutter. Our units were saddled with aircraft crashes, investigations, and struggling to understand how to come to peace with an enemy that didn’t play by the rules. It could really wear you down if you let it. Especially as a woman leader.
Fast forward to today: regardless of what vertical you are in professionally as a woman, that struggle can often be intensely similar. How does one balance being authentically themselves and mirroring the men in our professional lives? It all boils down to one thing: integrity. We are wired to be more morally astute than men naturally, and that’s exactly where your superpower lies. It levels the playing field and leads the conversation to a common ground. Here’s exactly why integrity is the best trait a female leader can have.
Without Trust, You Have Nothing
Integrity put simply, is trust. The reason why it outshines every other positive trait is this simple truth: people will only follow someone they trust. It’s almost similar to starting a new job. In the beginning, you’re learning and observing, and over time, the trust in your team builds through action/time. Or doesn’t. I’ve been on both sides: having superiors I didn’t trust, and ones I greatly trusted. When it’s there, it makes the work you do more powerful and meaningful. It’s where I am today. While the day to day for me can be challenging, it’s without a doubt one of the most fulfilling parts of my life.
Why Integrity Is So Important For Women
Ladies, we level the conversation. How so? Here’s why: men are naturally inclined to strive for success against all odds, and guess what? That’s necessary and also awesome. However, to make things work grand scale, it’s not just about success alone. It takes many more moving parts to gain the trust of consumers, readers, subordinates, you name it. That’s where we come in, to help balance success and ethics to make a team more powerful and motivated.
In execution, it’s much more complicated, and I’ll unpack that further in upcoming posts. What’s more important to understand now is that you should think about trust. It’s something that earned with time and consistently acting fairly with those around you. Are you motivated by knowing your manager trusts you? It just builds such a productive and positive environment! On the contrary, have you been hurt by cattiness or drama? This is one of the biggest reasons it’s so important as a leader. Take care of those who work under your leadership. By making a genuine human connection with your subordinates, you build trust, and most importantly, respect. That doesn’t mean you can’t correct or reprimand, it simply means doing it in a way that allows them to feel safe to receive criticism. It also means leading by example and living the “why” behind the tasks you execute.
That includes how you conduct yourself behind closed doors. How you speak about others is a direct reflection of your success in leadership. A few years ago, I was in a group setting with a business owner who was making fun of their clients to their peers/fellow clients, which was the opposite of what their brand preached. Instead of seeking to undermine the men or women around you to get ahead, feel better about yourself, etc: ask yourself what you can do to foster positive change and provide helpful criticism to the person who it applies to. We as women must stand to be better, and take those actions to inspire people around us to not treat us that way in return.
Integrity In Action
I’ll never forget how much that really made a difference until I took my first duty station after college and Marine Corps officer training. The department I worked in was often sent extra “problem children” that either screwed up on deployment or ones that were injured and unmotivated. Sure, I could make life harder or force them to “do what’s right,” but at the end of the day, it didn’t matter if they didn’t feel valued or heard. Setting an example of integrity with my words and actions bridged that gap. If I didn’t act with respect, I would never have received it back. They understood that I would support them, but only if they chose to make a change within themselves. The success of putting it into action earned not only their trust but that of my male peers.
Giving your subordinates room to explore that possibility of choosing to be better is where the magic happens. Ask them hard questions. What causes their rebellion spouts? What do they desire most? Then ask, how can you support them on that journey to remove that cloudiness and step into their own greatness? You’ll end up finding that some of the ones with the worst reputations end up becoming some of the strongest upcoming leaders of the next generation of employees. In my case, one that had gone to jail turned around to become one of the most motivated and honest subordinates I ever worked with.
Here’s the thing: people do generally want to become better, even if you can’t see it in the beginning. It’s up to you to bring that out of them by creating a trusting environment. You’ll find that it pours directly back into the company success your male counterparts are striving for. This is why integrity is the best trait a female can have. That characteristic is your unique superpower as a woman to foster that shift in your workplace and make its success even greater.
Photos by Mari Uchida Photography