Cornerstones of Strong Leadership

Management is about getting employees to perform tasks that they don’t want to perform while; leadership is inspiring employees to do tasks that they never thought they could. Strong leaders have the ability to find a balance between business, vision and character.

Jack Welch talks about Candor, Kevin O’Leary speaks to Culture and Kimberly Fries references Communication; all stating that these are essential elements to the fine art of leadership. All are links to effective leadership and are tantamount to leadership acumen however, there is much more. From my point of view, Vision, Honesty, Integrity and Compassion are not only the cornerstones to strong leadership – they are the cornerstones to organizational success.

Several times in their careers leaders face challenges that are laced with volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity (aka “VUCA”) and this is well illustrated when we experience the effects of Covid – 19. (You can read more about “VUCA” in my June article – Leading in Volatile Times).

Through it all, leaders are expected to deal with the unexpected, stay the course where possible and prepare the next generation of leaders. 

So, what does this have to do with Vision, Honesty, Integrity and Compassion. Well, if you examine these four cornerstones more closely you will find that they play an integral part in the effectiveness of Leadership.

Vision can be defined as being the art of anticipating that which will be or may come to be. Without Vision there is no leadership; both go together like hand and glove. Vision is declaring the future that others commit to achieve and it in itself provides a sense of purpose and a sense of being. Leadership Vision is an essential means for focusing attention on what matters most; what you need and / or want to accomplish. Vision provides the motivation and inspiration to keep people going while keeping the end result in mind. When a leaders Vision is strong it carries people to the end and if it is weak, people fall short.

A great example of Leadership Vision is Rob Ford (Premier of Ontario) and his battle against Covid – 19. His vision; “stop the spread”. Supporters and critics alike all said that Ford was the right person for the job given the current circumstances. His poll ratings have skyrocketed as a result of his positive behavior. His uncompromising Vision has rallied all government officials and the people of Ontario to the extent that well over 250,000 lives have been saved. 

Honesty: looked upon as the act of being free of deceit or the quality of being genuine. Honesty supports Vision and is a leader’s most valuable and most valued asset. Honesty serves as the gateway for trust and inspiration. A facet of leadership moral character, it underscores positive and virtuous attributes of openness and professional conduct.

Good leaders recognize that when they assume the position of leadership, the journey has just begun. They understand that people may think of them as being dishonest and they must demonstrate their Honesty. Strong leaders understand that others don’t necessarily trust them because they have never been caught lying; they have to prove themselves. Admitting to mistakes in front of others usually emits a positive feeling about your Honesty. Being honest will increase your sphere of influence because others will implicitly trust you and also view you as a leader that is worth following. Three keys to Honesty center around; not covering your tracks, being transparent and declaring all hidden agendas.

Integrity: we sometimes see this as the adherence to moral and ethical principles. Douglas MacArthur once said; “a true leader has the confidence to stand alone, the courage to make tough decisions, and the compassion to listen to the needs of others. He does not set out to be a leader, but becomes one by the equality of his actions and the integrity of his intent.”

“Integrity is not a value, Integrity makes values meaningful.”

Kathryn Christie, Kehoe Fellow, Queens School of Business.

Successful leadership requires a high level of Integrity because Integrity breeds trust and understanding now – more than ever. This is true for us as individually and also how we work together as a teams to battle the uncertainty that we currently face in our war against Covid – 19.

One of the fundamental values that companies seek in their leaders, Integrity is the hallmark of a leader who demonstrates sound moral and ethical principles in the workplace and in their private lives. The aforementioned cornerstone of Honesty is central to the value of Integrity.

Warren Buffet was quoted as saying; “when looking for a strong leader, look for three elements – intelligence, energy and Integrity. If they don’t have the last one, don’t bother with the first two. Everyone has the intelligence and energy or they wouldn’t be considered for a leadership position but, Integrity is up to you. You weren’t born with it and you can’t learn it in school.”

Unfortunately, most of us didn’t realize how true Mr. Buffet statement was until the President of the United States, Donald Trump decided to “shaft” all of his allies including his closest ally – Canada when he decreed that the 3M manufacturing company located in St. Paul, Minnesota, must keep all manufactured N95 masks in the USA and let the allies fend for themselves – great team player approach.

President Trump’s actions underscored what Leadership Integrity is really all about. He showed us through his surprising ignorance and stupidity that Leadership Integrity encompasses six significant behaviors. They are:

  1. leaders taking responsibility for their actions,
  2. putting others’ needs at the same level as theirs,
  3. offering help to others in need,
  4. giving others the benefit of the doubt,
  5. showing respect and dignity to everyone,
  6. manifesting humility.

Compassion: the feeling of sympathy and / or sorrow for another who is stricken by misfortune. Compassionate leaders are those who lead from within; they have the ability to inspire others while encouraging and empowering those around them. Compassion is not a soft management skill that is employed by the Human Resource Professionals only. Compassion is a proactive skill with the intent to contribute to the overall happiness, contentment and well being of others.

“When leaders are Compassionate they cultivate people who want to work for them not because of what you do but because of who you are.”

Lionel Valdellon, Content Marketing Manager, CleverTap, San Francisco.

Compassionate Leadership recognizes that every employee is a significant person and an essential thread in the fabric of the organization. Rather than accepting a culture of stress, Compassionate Leadership promotes an ethic of business compassion for a more congenial workplace.

In his writings, Valdellon says that Compassion isn’t really about being nice to others, it’s a concept that encompasses the well being of others; a decision, an action that will nurture others to their full potential. Unfortunately, Valdellon points out in his writings that well over seventy percent of all leaders lack Compassion as they view it as a sign of weakness

Saying to your fellow employee, how is your family – then shifting to work priorities with minimal listening; isn’t Compassion. Compassion is taking the time to invest time into people and showing a genuine concern for their

well being. Its about setting them on the right path to success; its about redefining processes, removing barriers to optimal work performance; its about mentoring those who are in need of your support. 

Your words, your tone of voice and your body language often display your level of Compassion to the other party. Leaders who lack Compassion have a tendency to have temper challenges and adopt the “stuck it up princess” mentality. This approach is not only foolish and ignorant, it is leadership suicide.

Maduleena Roy Choudhury, 2020

Compassion provides stability and psychological safety for others and leads to people feeling a sense of mental security and the confidence to reach out and ask for help.

Cornerstones like Vision, Honesty, Integrity and Compassion are not soft skills; they are power skills because they empower people to be the best that they can be leading to powerful, tangible business results. Whether these results be reduced turnover, reduced absenteeism, reduced waste, reduced punctuality challenges, reduced work over do’s, increased morale and much clearer communication – all leading to increased corporate profitability.

About The Author.

Nicholas Pollice is President of The Pollice Management Consulting Group located in Southern, Ontario, Canada. An international presenter and consultant, he is known as a leader in operations management.  Nicholas conducts programs in leadership, supervision, communication, negotiation and conflict resolution. He has been a consultant since 1989 and is the author of several professional publications. His presentations have been consistently ranked in the top10 % throughout North America. See Nicholas’ bio, his other publications and services on the PMCG. Website at