With integrity, you have nothing to fear, since you have nothing to hide. With integrity, you will do the right thing, so you will have no guilt.
As I begin to wrap up this year-long journey of writing about leading with L.E.S.S., there are a few important concepts that must be discussed when we consider Loving people first, Equipping people for success, standing alongside people in Service, and taking care of Self.
One factor impacts change more than any other: Attitude. The actions that come from our attitude can promote or destroy any work we take on in our schools and our lives. Your attitude impacts the person you will ultimately become. I believe the most important thing we bring to our school, classroom, or our life is our attitude. Attitude leads to building positive relationships, the dedication it takes to build high-quality lessons, and the perseverance to stick with tasks when frustrations arise. Attitude is the tipping point to everything we do.
Here is the challenge I see when it comes to talking about attitude. I have never met an educator who will stand up and say: “I am trying to hold my students back; I am trying to make it harder for teachers and students to be successful in today’s world; I am going to drag my feet in times of change; I am going to be the resistance to progress.” Yet, while I have never heard anyone say these things, I have seen people act this way and present this attitude.
I have said this before, but I want to repeat it in this conclusion. WHAT YOU BELIEVE DRIVES YOUR BEHAVIOR; HOW YOU BEHAVE TELLS YOU WHAT YOU TRULY BELIEVE. If you give me long enough to observe a person’s behavior, I will tell you what that person believes. While we may try and keep our beliefs and values to ourselves, our behavior is never private. Our behaviors define our beliefs for those around us. We can convince ourselves that our actions are justified, or provide context to our decisions to explain why we acted a particular way even though it is not who we really are. But, our behaviors do not lie, they define what we value.
Many times, we say our beliefs are one thing and then behave in contradiction to them. We need to ask ourselves if our behaviors align with where we think our beliefs and values stand. And if we find that they do not, then we need to either admit our values are different, or we need to start behaving differently.
If you look up the definition of integrity, you find two things. First, integrity means the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles; moral uprightness. Secondly, integrity is defined as the state of being whole and undivided. Integrity, therefore, is wholeness, and as a virtue, it is uniting belief and action. Breaking that unity (of belief and action) is literally possessing the lack of integrity.
It is never a waste of time to evaluate our beliefs to check the unity between belief and behavior. Constant self-evaluation is the only way to ensure we are living with integrity. If we say all students matter in our classroom, we need to make sure we treat every single student with the respect that that ideal should elicit. If we say people come first in our leadership, then we must always put people over any product or outcome. If we say we want to prepare our students for the future, we need to make sure the tasks we are asking them to complete are aligned to the skills it will take to have future success. This list could go on…
Reiterating what I stated earlier, what you believe drives your behavior, but more importantly, how you behave tells others what you believe. Do your beliefs and behavior align? If they do not, changes must be made in one aspect or another or you have no hope of being a true leader in your classroom, school, or life.