Your Greatest Source of Influence

Building Trust
Your character is your greatest source of influence, no matter what your role or position. Your character is the expression of who you are. And influential character is built on a foundation of integrity.

I have never facilitated the process of identifying values where some form of integrity didn’t end at the top of the list. Why? Because integrity sets the stage – it is the commitment to consistently act on your values.  

Without integrity, none of your other values matter.

Integrity means you can be trusted to say what you mean and do what you say.

When you are a leader, everything you say and do is magnified. You raise an eyebrow and people wonder what it means. You make an off-handed comment and people jump. Each nuance is considered a mandate.

This is the nature of leadership. It doesn’t matter whether you like it or not. Your actions are being scrutinized every moment.

You can’t take “time off.”

If you are slightly inconsistent, it is magnified in the view of others.  You don’t have the luxury of cheating in a silly game or telling a crude joke.

You can get compliance through bullying and manipulation, but you won’t be trusted or respected.

If you want to be a leader who people choose to follow, they must trust you.

Trust is a state that arises naturally like love, joy and gratitude. You can’t command it to arise in others, but you can create the conditions for it to arise. The only place you can start is with your own character – by consistently considering your impact on others and consciously acting with integrity in all ways great and small.

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22 comments to Your Greatest Source of Influence

  • Jesse – I absolutely love this! Especially the emphasis that everything you do is magnified. …Like raising an eyebrow!

    • Jesse Lyn Stoner Jesse Lyn Stoner

      Thanks, Chery, The eyebrow raise is a great example.

      Often leaders do these things, not because think they’re better than everyone else, but because they think they’re the same as everyone else, and don’t understand the responsibility that has been entrusted to them as a leader.

  • So true. I have always liked this definition of integrity “consistency between what you think, what you say and what you do”

    You can’t trust what you can’t rely on.

    • Jesse Lyn Stoner Jesse Lyn Stoner

      That the bottom-line: “You can’t trust what you can’t rely on.” Integrity and trust and intricately linked. Thanks for the excellent definition of integrity, Thabo.

  • Calla

    I agree Jesse. The most important key to building trust is for people to really believe that you are who you say you are. That only begins with what you say, but is validated by what you do, and how you act. I think this is why transparency has become so important in Leadership as well. People don’t trust a mask,or a fake.
    They trust the real thing,which is when we act with integrity.

    • Jesse Lyn Stoner Jesse Lyn Stoner

      Thanks for the link with transparency. Makes sense. You also remind me of the link with authenticity. What all three have in common is: what is visible is the same as what is below the surface. I wonder if we are learning to be more discriminating and not taking things at face value these days. I think about the level of trust that “the greatest generation” had in the government contrasted to where we are today. Thanks so much for deepening the conversation, Calla.

  • Really great post Jesse. Thanks for sharing.

  • A wonderful and wise post, Jesse. Authenticity, consistency, transparency and integrity of thought, word and deed are so critical to building trust with others, and as you point out, even more magnified in leaders. Trust is indeed foundational to any relationship, and once broken, is so very difficult to repair.

    • Jesse Lyn Stoner Jesse Lyn Stoner

      Excellent point about breaking trust, Sharon. It takes time to build trust, but it can be broken in a moment and is difficult to rebuild. It takes much less energy to maintain it than it does to rebuild it. The key is to maintaining it is to be aware of the impact of your actions on others, because ultimately your actions are interpreted by others, not by yourself.

  • Paul Williams

    Jesse, just started reading your blog. Truer words were never said, my boss always says the one thing you have that cannot be taken away is your integrity, however, it is yours to lose. If you lose your integrity, you will never lead, let alone be followed by anyone to anywhere.

    • Jesse Lyn Stoner Jesse Lyn Stoner

      Thanks to you for sharing these wise word, Paul.
      “The one thing you have that cannot be taken away is your integrity, however, it is yours to lose.”
      Delighted you have discovered my blog, Paul. I hope you explore it a bit and welcome your thoughts.

  • Thanks for insights. Warren Buffett says he looks for energy, intelligence, and integrity. And if you have the first two and not the last he is not interested. He said he would rather work with people who are slower and less intelligent as long as they have high integrity.

  • Jesse, Beautiful post. Integrity is full time. Leaders who say one thing and do something else quickly lose the respect of their organizations. People may nod and “salute” but they are not following with their whole hearts.

  • Chris Smeaton

    There is no substitute for integrity and you are never allowed to be “off the clock.” Your most defining moments will always be evaluated on the alignment between your actions and words. Integrity is possessing perfect alignment!

  • Jesse, I’ve missed reading your blog; been away for much too long. Note to self… ‘Yo. Read Jesse’s blog!”
    This post is so well written and communicates a very powerful message. It puts a point on an aspect of emotional intelligence that is often a source of poor management, leadership, and interpersonal relationships: lack of attention to our awareness of self and others.
    One more thing: My friends Ken and Linda Schatz published a (hard to find now) great book way back in 1986, called Managing By Influence. An important assertion they make (which I often ask clients to ponder) is, “You can never not lead.”

    • Jesse Lyn Stoner Jesse Lyn Stoner

      Great to see you back here, Lowell! Well said -> “You can never not lead.” Thanks for your kind words, your thoughts and for the reference to Managing by Influence. I’ll look for it.

  • What a great blog! I am currently coaching an emerging young leader and Jesse, your blogs will definitely be used in our coaching sessions – for myself as well as for this young person with such great potential. Thank you for your great insight.

    • Jesse Lyn Stoner Jesse Lyn Stoner

      That’s great to know, Mandy. So glad my blog is helpful. We have a shared interest in emerging young leaders. I am currently serving as the Interim Executive Director of the Berrett-Koehler Foundation, a new organization we are in the process of launching that focuses on helping the next generation of leaders create a world that works for all.

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