Trust is the degree to which you can predict someone or something. When it comes to people, what you are assessing is how well you can predict what they will do or, how they will react, to a given situation. Will they do what they say they will do? Will they keep your secrets? Will they tell you the truth? Trust is a key element in establishing credibility. Our credibility is at the center of our ability to influence others and provide strong leadership.
Integrity, on the other hand, is behaving in accordance with morals, ethics and values. There are two types of integrity - our personal integrity (our own core values) and our behavioral integrity (alignment between our words and our actions). Here’s a few thoughts on both.
Personal integrity is primarily a relationship one has with oneself; your own integrated sense of identity within a moral or ethical context. Personal integrity is about individual values; it is generally a personal choice to hold oneself to consistent moral and ethical standards. People tend to judge others based on their own values, not the values of the person they are judging - because we simply cannot know one’s true inner values. When we think someone lacks personal integrity, what we usually mean is that the observed behavior doesn’t match with our own personal values. The Greek philosophers Aristotle and Plato regarded temperance, wisdom, justice and core as the four most desirable character traits. The 4 classical cardinal virtues are prudence, justice, fortitude, temperance.
Behavioral integrity is the perceived alignment between a leader’s words and deeds. Behavioral integrity is the subjective perceptions others have of how credible you are. It is about how aligned they see you between your words and actions. How worthy you may be of their trust. Behavioral integrity isn't grounded in what you believe is morally right or wrong -- after all, you may believe one thing, and say or do another. It's judged against the backdrop of your words, not unspoken values, standards, or principles. Behavioral integrity isn't doing what's right (although that's always helpful), but actually do what you say you'll do. If you want trust at work, the question to ask is -- are you good to your word?
Consistency matters. Time matters. Consistency affects the interpretation of your behavioral integrity, over time, both positively or negatively. No consistency = no believability. No believability = no credibility. No credibility = no trust that you'll do as you say.
It's not your personal integrity that will build trust. Having personal integrity is an expected norm in most workplaces, and awards you no added trust points as a leader or coworker. In order to build trust you must demonstrate your behavioral integrity. It's essential for creating and operating with trust currency at work.
Michael is an executive coach, entrepreneur, investor, and strategist with 30 years of experience leading investor-backed, high-growth organizations.
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