We live in a time when it seems every day we hear a new story of one more trusted leader who is no longer trustworthy. They’ve ended up in jail, been fined millions of dollars, are wrapped up in a lawsuit, and have hurt hundreds in their wake. This disheartening trend highlights the importance of integrity as a leader.
God has made it clear to me that I’m never just representing my employer’s brand or my family or my church, I’m representing Him in every sphere of my life. This makes integrity that much more vital for us as Christian leaders. It ought to be something we practice so much that it becomes woven into our character.
Character is the outward expression of the priorities and motivations of our hearts. So there’s no hiding it. If the inside is off-course, eventually the outside will be too.
So what does it mean to be a woman of integrity? Integrity is derived from the word integer - a whole number that is not divided. To be a woman of integrity is just that — to be whole and undivided. This means consistency in actions and alignment of beliefs — in every single sphere of our lives.
Here are five keys for practicing integrity as a leader every day, in every sphere of your life
I learned this lesson at an early age as a latch-key kid who often found myself home alone after school. The guidelines my mother set for me were clear: come straight home, don’t turn on the stove, don’t answer the door or the phone, and no visits from friends allowed.
She set the guidelines, but she wasn’t there to enforce them. I had to personally hold myself accountable to them out of integrity and not out of fear of punishment.
Our integrity as women of God must be inspired by a higher standard than our boss’s expectations, our workplace culture, or the opinions of our friends. Our integrity is inspired by a desire to model the greatest example of leadership we have — Jesus. Practice integrity by holding yourself accountable to that model.
A journalist once called me a “part-time teller turned breakthrough artist.” Who would have imagined? It certainly wasn’t the trajectory I thought I was on.
But my passion to serve and inspire others was truly ignited in banking. The opportunity to help a customer purchase their first home, send a child to college, save for retirement, or pay off debts made me feel like I was adding value to other’s lives at the highest level while expanding to reach my full potential.
That passion led me to change majors in college while being a single parent, but I trusted God’s plans and His provisions through that challenging season. Practice integrity by relying on God and His unchanging character even when life isn’t going as you had planned.
From my early days as a part-time bank teller to my role today in the C-suite of a large international bank, I’m keenly aware that I’m nothing without God.
The moment we start believing our success has been defined by our own doing, we forget that we need God to lead us and guide us every step of the way. We open the door for pride and risk our priorities getting off track. Practice integrity by giving credit where credit is due and bringing others along on the journey to success.
If we’re honest with ourselves, we’ve all had roles that add to our status, build credibility, pay the bills, but don’t make us say, “I’m made for this.” You may even find yourself in one of those roles now. Maybe you’re a corporate leader or entrepreneur who has found yourself in a “stay at home mom” season. Or perhaps you're in a sales role earning great commission but you feel like a fraud every day because sales isn’t your heart. Or maybe you're a ministry leader working retail to make ends meet for your family.
Whatever role you find yourself in right now, as Christian leaders, we have to practice integrity by serving where God puts us and trusting His path for us. A constant prayer that helps me stay focused on this is: “God, use me for your glory. Reveal in me what you created me to be and help me shape the lives and organizations you created me to lead."
I have been blessed with honors over the course of my career, most recently being recognized as one of the Top 25 Most Powerful Women in Banking by American Banker. And while I am honored and humbled by these distinctions, I remind myself daily that they don’t define me. They were given to me on this earth and when I leave it, they will be listed on my obituary at best.
So my identity cannot be anchored in those temporal facts, it must be anchored in the unchanging Truth—that I am who God says I am, I can do what God says I can do, and I can have all that God says I can have in Him.
As Christian leaders, we have a mandate to use our God-given influence as a means for fulfilling His purposes, not as a measuring stick for comparing our earthly success with someone else’s. Practice integrity by anchoring your identity in the soil of who God says you are.
In applying all of these keys, I encourage you to do so with intentionality, empathy, and grace. We will face challenges every day balancing accountability and expectations with loving those we are called to serve. It is in those hard moments where our integrity is really put to the test and has a chance to shine. The question is: will we act according to what we say we believe even when it’s hard, even when it isolates us, and even when we are ridiculed because of it?
Use every leadership opportunity you are given to exercise power through people rather than power over people. A leader of integrity will empower others by instilling confidence, competence, and capability in them.
Rosilyn Houston is an ordinary woman who believes in an extraordinary God to do the impossible in her life. She’s also the Chief Talent & Culture Executive at BBVA Compass. She leads all aspects of HR including culture, employee engagement, employee communication, and workplace premises.