“Without a sense of fairness and justice, no leader can command and retain the respect of his followers,” Napoleon Hill wrote in his 1937 book on success, “Think and Grow Rich.”
Leaders who live with integrity inspire their followers to adopt their own ideals, which makes them more willing to support their vision.
True integrity is not paraded about for others to admire, but is shown through small actions and behaviors. Quora users discussed how to spot these qualities in the popular thread: “What is the single most revealing thing about any person?”
We’ve highlighted the best answers and added some of our own insight. Here are nine subtle, yet revealing things that people with integrity do:
1. They support the team, even under pressure.
“It is when we are under pressure that our true colors come out,” says Jill Uchiyama. It is natural to want to fall back on your ego when dealing with a period of increased stress and challenge. Great leaders are able to set aside selfish impulses and do what will benefit their entire team.
2. They take responsibility for their problems.
Bin Luo shares a quote from President Abraham Lincoln: “You can tell the greatness of a man by what makes him angry.”
For example, if an entrepreneur’s startup falls apart before it can become profitable, they can become angry at the market, their employees, or their investors, blaming the failure on everyone and everything but themselves. The best leaders do not become angry with themselves to the point of self-destruction, but rather get to a point where they can accept their mistakes and learn from them.
3. They help others without expecting something in return.
Someone with true integrity does not place their own desires above all else, says Becky Lee. Successful people know that doing a good deed for someone else often compels that person to want to reciprocate, which can be a great networking strategy. But a person with true integrity helps others when it is the right thing to do, and having it reciprocated is just a pleasant side effect.
4. They still live by their principles when given power.
Abhisek Pattnaik refers to another Lincoln quote on integrity: “Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.”
If someone abandons their ideals once they are given real influence over an organization, they reveal that those ideals were more a disguise than rooted in their identity.
5. They treat low-level employees with respect.
Leaders with integrity recognize that every person plays a role in their company, from a senior manager to the janitor, and does not patronize or belittle any of them.
Further, says Brett Williams, you can judge someone by the way they speak with service employees like waiters and cashiers.
6. They don’t waste their free time.
Great leaders deal with boredom by using it as an opportunity to create or learn something, says Norsez Orankijanan.
That doesn’t mean, of course, that people who like to catch up on their Netflix queue after work are necessarily sabotaging their success, but those who rarely do something productive during their downtime are probably not committed to achieving something important.
7. They surround themselves with peers who push them to be better.
George Cotsikis mentions the proverb: “When the character of a man is not clear to you, look at his friends.”
The most successful people surround themselves with a wide variety of people who aren’t afraid to challenge their ideas, and who also provide them with a support system to help them through difficult times.
8. They don’t pretend to know everything.
You can judge people by the questions they ask, says Paul Denlinger.
More specifically, the best leaders ask questions when they don’t know something rather than to feed their egos.
9. They welcome valid criticism.
A person with integrity will not give into anger or fear when faced with valid criticism (as opposed to mean-spirited insults), but will rather consider it and learn from it, says Abhilash Pattnaik.