In today’s volatile and challenging business environment, effective business leadership is more important than ever. So what makes a good leader? Is it their skills? Intelligence? Or is it the quality of their character? 

Roger Delves, Dean of Qualifications and Professor of Practice at Ashridge Executive Education at Hult, argues that authenticity and integrity are integral qualities of responsible and inspiring leadership in a VUCA environment. Roger recently led a thought-provoking webinar in conjunction with Ivy Exec discussing the role of authenticity in leadership and strategies for decision-making based on a framework of core values. You can watch the webinar below or read on for four key insights and inspiring quotes on leading with integrity.


  1. Trust is an essential aspect of leadership

“We lead only with the permission of the people who follow us.” – Roger Delves, Dean of Qualifications and Professor of Practice at Ashridge Executive Education

A good leader must inspire people to follow them. And people choose to follow leaders they are prepared to trust. According to a 2017 survey conducted by the consulting firm Tolero Solutions, 45% of people cite a lack of trust in leadership as the biggest issue impacting their work.

Earning the trust of your employees, team, and the wider organization is central to becoming—and remaining—an effective leader. New research from the Ken Blanchard Companies highlights the fact that employees who trust their leaders perform better and are less likely to leave the company. Trust inspires followers. And, by definition, a leader without followers isn’t a leader at all.

  1. Integrity and authenticity forge trust

“Authenticity is about being true to yourself and being other-regarding—putting other people before yourself.”- Roger Delves, Dean of Qualifications and Professor of Practice at Ashridge Executive Education

Trust in a leader is built on the belief that they are acting with integrity and working in the best interests of the team or organization. In uncertain times, having confidence in the decision-making capacity of leaders is especially critical. Trustworthy leaders demonstrate their integrity by consistently making decisions they believe to be right, without selfish or ulterior motives.

What we believe to be right is based on our personal values. Consciously or unconsciously, our decision-making is influenced by our values. These are the are deeply-rooted, subjective beliefs that some things are more desirable than others.

For example, you may be driven by values like honesty or compassion, success or generosity. Valuing honesty over compassion could influence your behavior in different circumstances, such as delivering bad news or facing conflict. Likewise, valuing success over generosity—or vice-versa—will guide your decision-making in very different ways.

  1. Authentic leaders consistently make decisions aligned with values that are solid, tangible, and good

“Leaders think, consider, and then make decisions. How they think, what they choose to consider, and what criteria they use in making decisions, will inform every aspect of the organization’s success or otherwise.”- Roger Delves, Dean of Qualifications and Professor of Practice at Ashridge Executive Education


Often, we inherit our ways of thinking and our values from our parents or those around us at a young age. One step towards authentic leadership—taking action based on a solid framework of values—is self-reflection, examining and challenging the values that influence our decision-making. If a value isn’t challenged, it could be unconsciously coloring your decisions.

Getting to the core of what you really believe and dismissing values rooted in prejudice, such as ageism, sexism, or racism, will help you to make decisions based on a concrete set of good principles. Integrity means being true to these good principles, even in the face of temptation. In the business world, this temptation might come in the form of a bonus, a corner office, or simply taking credit for someone else’s hard work.

Good leaders lead selflessly in temptation and difficulty, always guided by values that emphasize the collective interests of the group. This makes for leaders we can trust to be consistent in their thoughts, decisions, and actions.


  1. What is right isn’t always popular—authentic leaders do what’s right anyway

“Values forged in the fire of experience are values worth keeping. Integrity is underpinned by values.”- Roger Delves, Dean of Qualifications and Professor of Practice at Ashridge Executive Education

Sometimes the temptation that challenges our values and therefore our authenticity, is the desire for being liked. From the school room to the boardroom, we have all been in situations where we may disagree with the actions or attitudes of the group, but a desire for belonging prevents us from speaking up.

When we align ourselves with the crowd for the sake of acceptance, rather than acting on what we know to be true, we are undermining our integrity. Authentic leaders must always act in alignment with their values and do what is right even—and perhaps especially—when what is right isn’t what is popular. Roger explains, “Don’t be a leader if you want to be liked, because sooner or later you have to make decisions that people won’t like you for. Sometimes, the right thing to do is downsize your department, and you have to have the courage to do the right thing, not the thing which is going to get you liked.”


Do you have what it takes to lead with integrity? What are the values that color your decision-making? At Hult, we understand that we need inspiring leaders in today’s challenging times. That’s why we put leadership development at the heart of all of our programs. Find out more about how you will hone your leadership skills as part of our Global Executive MBA.

If you would like to find out more about Hult’s global business programs, download a brochure here.

Written by Hult contributing blogger Katie Reynolds who is a freelance writer based in London. Originally from Michigan in the U.S., she relocated to the U.K. in 2010 to pursue a master’s degree at Hertford College, Oxford. Today, she writes on topics including business, higher education, healthcare, and culture.

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