Leaders rated highest in honesty/integrity exhibit several common behaviors

Stories of dishonesty and lack of integrity in business and politics are abundant, but examples of high integrity are sometimes hard to find. In a recent study of over 18,000 leaders, consulting firm Zenger Folkman found leaders who were in the 90th percentile of effectiveness in competency displayed high integrity and honesty. They carefully studied these leaders and found eight common behaviors that led to their ability to lead organizations in a principled way.

"Most would assume that the only way to increase honesty is to be more honest. The problem is there is no action plan or defined way to improve," explains Dr. Joseph Folkman, president of Zenger Folkman. "We have found that working on companion behaviors statistically correlated to honesty assists the leader [in being] perceived as substantially more honest by [his or her] peers and direct reports."

Developing these specific companion behaviors offers leaders a clear path to move from good to great in displaying high honesty and integrity. Leaders ranking highest in honesty and integrity exemplified strengths in several but not all eight companion behaviors.

  • Concern and consideration for others
  • Trust
  • Optimism
  • Assertiveness
  • Inspires and motivates others
  • Drives for results
  • Deals with ambiguity
  • Decisiveness

"The good news is you don't need to be perfect at all of the companion behaviors; in fact, you can improve on two of them to increase honesty and integrity," said Jack Zenger, CEO of Zenger Folkman. "Every individual and organization can greatly benefit from increasing the level of honesty and integrity."