Deficiency of integrity in leaders has been largely responsible for leadership failures at all levels, ranging from family to national and global levels of leadership. Incidentally the word integrity is often misunderstood, mispresented and misapplied. Hence it is pertinent to understand the true meaning of integrity in other to effectively unveil the central role it plays in effective leadership delivery. The word ‘integrity’ is from a Latin word “integritas”, which defines a state of wholeness as opposed to fraction. It describes the art of making two or more things to become whole. This word is synonymous with words like; purity, completeness, correctness, blamelessness or a perfect condition. However, if the word integrity describes a state of wholeness, what then are the components of this whole? According to Moïse Kibango, in his book “Spirit of Leadership” integrity is a union of “reputation” and “character”. He opined that these two phenomena are fused into the word “integrity.” Integrity is a primary requirement of good leadership as it attracts tremendous amount of followership and commands unalloyed loyalty. Pertinently, understanding the essential of integrity in leadership would require a critical look at these two phenomena that make up the word “integrity”.


The Oxford Dictionary of English defines reputation as the beliefs or opinions that are generally held about someone. People are known for what they do or do not do. Consequently, an action of people is most times driven by the impression they want to send out to observers. Hence public conduct of an individual does not necessarily reflect the true identity of the person but might be a deliberate attempt to paint a beautiful picture of the perception he would like the public to have of him. For instance, someone who attends religious services regularly and always volunteers to pray when the need arises, particularly in public places at any given opportunity and even frequently responds to social greeting with religious cliché, may just be in the business of selling a certain image of himself to the public. Such a person would eventually succeed in selling himself to the public, as a Godly person. Therefore, he strives to sell to the public a personality that would reflect him as a person of honour, conscience and good faith. Incidentally, as it is seen in most part of our society today, this image would eventually turn out to become the person’s reputation. However, this reputation may not necessarily be the true account of his personality. There are also people who would want to portray an image of a “no nonsense” person, hence they react sharply, sometimes violently against anyone who insults or even insinuates insult to them in public places, but hardly take any action even when they are abused and humiliated in private. This is quite manipulative and such a person would hardly make a good leader as genuine loyalty seldom goes to manipulative persons. People with inconsistent conduct would hardly attract genuine followership.

Good leadership must be matched with good followership, this probably lends credence to the saying that “if you think you are leading and no one is following, then you may just be taking a walk” Therefore, good followership is fundamental in identifying good leadership. Incidentally, the majority of our aspiring leaders are in the business of selling themselves to one another and to the public. They are in a business of projecting the image they would want the public to perceive of them. Their comportments, presentations and reactions to issues in public places are not necessarily what it would have been if it were in a private place. This manipulative style may attract some kind of loyalty but never an enduring loyalty.


Character is a fundamental requirement in leadership and leadership without character is nothing but manipulation. The importance of character in leadership will be better understood with a good understanding of the definition of character. Character is a distinguishing feature of person but not easily identifiable by others. It is what you know and think about yourself that no other person knows or thinks about you. This is because there is usually a deliberate effort by individuals to conceal their character. Perhaps this is why one of my friends and colleague, Brig Gen Bamgbe Koughna once said “You are what you think people think you are “This is also aptly represented in the fourth quadrant of the Joharies Window model for self-awareness. On the contrary, your reputation is what you are in the eyes of the public, while your character is what you are in the private. The private life and public life of most people is entirely different from one another; hence such people lack integrity and not good for leadership. A lot of leaders make efforts to conceal who they really are because it is usually not pleasant to the public. Ironically, life has a way of always letting the true character of an individual to pup out one day and reveal itself to the public glare. When this happens, the followership that was hitherto acquired will begin to disintegrate. This accounts for why manipulative leader would hardly attract an enduring loyalty because the loyalty would disappear as soon as the true character pups out. Character pup-out is usually preceded by a reputation failure. Of what use is it to build a reputation that will eventually collapse so long as it is not in concordance with your character. This is why the primary objective of a good leader should be to ensure that his private life and public life remain the same. A good leader will always say the truth no matter the consequence. A good leader would say what he means and means what he says. His character must be the same as his reputation, otherwise he would be a leader without integrity. Therefore, integrity defines a situation where the reputation and character are the same. Without character, a leader will fail as a manager, supervisor, politician or even military leader because where there is no character, there will be no confidence. Character should be one of the ultimate pursuits of a leader and not power, influence nor talent. A leader’s character should be the source of his influence and power. Leaders should be predictable as much as characters are predictable.


While reputation can change easily, character is a quality that is unchangeable, stable, and independent. Some examples of character are: Alphabets, Numbers, Status and Principles. We call the alphabets A, B, C, D… characters because they do not change. It is the same in every part of the world. Numbers 1,2,3, 4,… are also characters because they are the same all the time and everywhere. Status do not change; the statue of liberty remains constant all the time and you can always predict what it is doing without seeing it or going to New York. Principles are also characters because they do not change, for example, the principle of gravity remains the same and does not discriminate. For a leader to gain the respect and confidence of the people he must develop the reputation that is the same as his character because the force of leadership lies in the integrity of the leader. it is the uniformity of character and reputation that gives legitimacy to the integrity in leadership. Integrity signifies that who you are, all you say, all you think and all you do are the same.