The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Current English gives out ‘moral uprightness, honesty, wholeness, soundness’ as the meaning of the word ‘integrity’. It is one of the dictionary’s shortest explanations of a word’s meaning; more was not needed perhaps because every one knows what this word means. People are very much familiar with the concept, they may not be practising integrity themselves but they can make out easily if the other person’s conduct is of integrity or not.
Integrity is the foundation on which the edifice of leadership is built and without it, naturally, leadership collapses. High credibility of a leader is the outcome of their integrity. High credibility, in turn, gives rise to better, sometime even unquestioned, acceptance of a leader’s decisions among the followers and motivates them no end. They would be more likely to believe that those decisions are for the benefit of the team and the enterprise, and that they would advance their true interests. Further, team building is not an effort for a leader having integrity because fairness in treating each member of the team, which is one of the pre-requisites of building an effective team, is a hand-maiden of the leader’s integrity.
Finally, any one having high level of personal integrity but average conceptual, technical and people skills can be a great leader but the reverse is not true. Some one without integrity can yet lead by pandering to the baser concerns of the followers but they won’t deserve even a footnote in the book of leadership.