Integrity Over Charisma

Good leadership requires integrity more than charisma. Integrity creates a climate of safety in which people can thrive, while charisma often leads to complacency and arrogance and keeps people small and dependent.

Peter Druck­er was born on Novem­ber 19, 1909, and grew up in Vien­na as the son of an upper mid­dle-class Jew­ish fam­i­ly. In the 1920s he stud­ied first in Ham­burg and lat­er in Frank­furt. After the Nazi regime put one of his works on the list of books that were pub­licly burned on May 10, 1933, Druck­er first emi­grat­ed to Lon­don and then moved to the USA in 1937.

In light of his per­son­al his­to­ry, it is hard­ly sur­pris­ing that Peter Druck­er treats the con­cept of lead­er­ship in his work only very cau­tious­ly. And in the few places where he nev­er­the­less writes about it, the ref­er­ence to Hitler, Stal­in and Mao is almost nev­er miss­ing as a deter­rent exam­ple of how dan­ger­ous charis­ma can become with­out char­ac­ter and integrity. 

The final proof of the sin­cer­i­ty and seri­ous­ness of an orga­ni­za­tion’s man­age­ment is uncom­pro­mis­ing empha­sis on char­ac­ter. (…) For it is through char­ac­ter that lead­er­ship is exer­cised; it is char­ac­ter that sets the exam­ple and is imitated.

Peter F. Druck­er. Man­age­ment – Rev. Ed., p. 286

For Peter Druck­er, charis­ma is there­fore not the key qual­i­ty of lead­er­ship, but on the con­trary often the root of all evil, because charis­ma fre­quent­ly leads to com­pla­cen­cy and arro­gance: Ego­ma­ni­acs can be very charis­mat­ic. Peter F. Druck­er accord­ing­ly attests tru­ly effec­tive lead­ers such as Dwight Eisen­how­er, George Mar­shall or Har­ry Tru­man the charis­ma of a “dead mack­er­el” (Peter F. Druck­er. Man­age­ment — Rev. Ed., p. 289) 

So what real­ly mat­ters is not charis­ma, but integri­ty. Per­son­al integri­ty is root­ed in philo­soph­i­cal human­ism and means the great­est pos­si­ble agree­ment of a con­sis­tent frame­work of val­ues, con­vic­tions and ideals with one’s own life prac­tice in words and deeds. This means in par­tic­u­lar that this frame­work must be uni­ver­sal­ly applic­a­ble with­out ran­dom­ly exclud­ing indi­vid­u­als (one­self) or groups of indi­vid­u­als (the oth­ers) from its appli­ca­tion. In this respect, integri­ty thus requires the ful­fill­ment of the cat­e­gor­i­cal imperative:

Act only accord­ing to that max­im where­by you can, at the same time, will that it should become a uni­ver­sal law.

Immanuel Kant

Accord­ing­ly, those who lead with integri­ty are not afraid of strong employ­ees, but rather rely much more on the indi­vid­ual strengths of their employ­ees, pro­mote them and make them great and suc­cess­ful in the sense of the com­mon mis­sion. On the oth­er hand, those who keep oth­ers small out of fear or, like many auto­crats, car­ry out down­right purges, are only appar­ent­ly strong and actu­al­ly act from a posi­tion of weak­ness with lit­tle integri­ty. The result is medi­oc­rity on the one hand and lit­tle val­ue-adding polit­i­cal fights on the other.

Lead­er­ship is lift­ing a per­son­’s vision to high­er sights, the rais­ing of a per­son­’s per­for­mance to a high­er stan­dard, the build­ing of a per­son­al­i­ty beyond its nor­mal limitations.

Peter F. Druck­er. Man­age­ment – Rev. Ed., p. 288
The fifth thesis of the Manifesto for Human Leadership is also a call for integrity
The fifth the­sis of the Man­i­festo for Human(e) Leadership

Integri­ty in this sense is pre­cise­ly the val­ue behind this fifth the­sis of the Man­i­festo for Human(e) Lead­er­ship: Grow­ing lead­ers over lead­ing fol­low­ers. Lead­er­ship today is only legit­i­mate if it is aimed at the self-lead­er­ship of the peo­ple entrust­ed to it. It is not about being supe­ri­or or infe­ri­or, it is about work­ing togeth­er as adults at the same lev­el. Lead­er­ship is a ser­vice, not a priv­i­lege. And the ser­vice is to offer peo­ple the oppor­tu­ni­ty for development.

To this end, lead­er­ship through integri­ty cre­ates a cli­mate of psy­cho­log­i­cal safe­ty and trust in which peo­ple can rise above them­selves. A dif­fer­ence that makes a dif­fer­ence, which is what Simon Sinek very impres­sive­ly demon­strates in this TED talk:

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