Leadership Demands Integrity By Example

Integrity comes from a congruence between thoughts, feelings, words, and actions-when all that you are and do spring from your core values. Gandhi was one of the greatest examples of integrity we have seen in modern times, and the many moving stories about his life demonstrate the power of teaching this character trait by example.

A mother once brought her child to him, asking him to tell the young boy not to eat sugar, because it was not good for his diet or his developing teeth. Gandhi replied, "I cannot tell him that. But you may bring him back in a month." The mother was angry as Gandhi moved on, brushing her aside. She had traveled some distance, and had expected the mighty leader to support her parenting. She had little recourse, so she left for her home. One month later she returned, not knowing what to expect. The great Gandhi took the small child's hands into his own, knelt before him, and tenderly communicated, "Do not eat sugar, my child. It is not good for you." Then he embraced him and returned the boy to his mother. The mother, grateful but perplexed, queried, "Why didn't you say that a month ago?" "Well," said Gandhi, "a month ago, I was still eating sugar." What power in example!

This rare kind of integrity has great power. Imagine what the world would be like if all present day leaders of nations had that kind of integrity. What if we could depend on their word in any situation? What if trust and confidence were the foundation of every business relationship? Because of his integrity, millions trusted Gandhi; millions learned from him and counted themselves as his followers. Collectively, they became a force strong enough to gain political independence for India. True leaders demonstrate Integrity by Example.

Sales Success Byte

Become a VP of Reputation—Invest in Your Identity "Who you are speaks so loudly, I cannot hear a word you're saying."

Reputation is the new profit center for the 21st century. Think about it. In an age of corporate scandals, suspicious customers, and budgets with very little breathing room, there is simply no substitute for being a reputable company. But no matter how many times you say you're an honest, trustworthy, customer- centered company, the proof is in the proverbial pudding.

Reputation is built one person at a time. And who are the real purveyors of corporate reputation? The men and women who work on the front lines. That's right. Your salespeople and your customer service personnel.

Business leaders must make their employees understand that each and every one of them is a "VP of Reputation." Most managers teach their people all about the products and services they're selling and maybe impart some scripts or motivational techniques-but they don't address the most important factor of all. Without a good, solid, credible reputation, none of the rest will work.

So how do you go about becoming a VP of Reputation and helping your team do the same? Follow these tips:

Start with selzig . . . focus on serving. VP's of Reputation know that the word sell derives from the Scandinavian root selzig, which literally means to serve.

Focusing on landing a commission or rigidly following a company policy when it doesn't make sense prevents many people from building a credible service-oriented reputation. VP's of Reputation serve their customers so fervently that an unbreakable customer loyalty develops.

Satisfied buyers not only remain loyal, but they also tell others about their first class treatment. Nothing builds a reputation faster and more effectively than testimonials.

Specialize. Concentrating your efforts in a single industry niche allows you to maximize your expertise, credibility, and reputation.

Customers today have big challenges, and they want proven solutions from experts who understand the specific nuances of their problems.They don't want generalists.

I met real estate expert Chuck T.—a.k.a. "the Lincoln Park Specialist"—when I was first looking to invest in rental properties in Chicago. It quickly became apparent that Chuck knew a lot more about the properties that I had been studying in detail than I did, despite the fact that I had my real estate license. In fact, he knew every property within the confines of Lincoln Park. He knew their history and the nuances of their values street by street. He focused on that tiny geography, scrupulously studied every single property, worked his tail off, and in the process became super well-known. Chuck T.'s reputation as the main event in Lincoln Park real estate helped him dominate that industry niche.

Become more unique. The most successful business people know that if they can become more unique, they'll be remembered more easily and more often by their customers.

A unique identity can be accomplished in many ways. Everything from personal monikers, trademark clothing, follow—up techniques, and personal marketing methods can help you become more unique to your buyers. I send out hand-signed thank-you cards with a million-dollar bill enclosed to anyone I meet, and people always remember them.

Harvey Blender—a telemarketing entrepreneur from Wheeling, Illinois—is known as the "cookie man." Whenever Harvey finishes a sales call or follow-up visit, he gives his buyers or prospects one of his homemade chocolate chip cookies. People love his cookies and remember Harvey because he brought them.

Tell your success stories. VP's of Reputation are able to articulate their company's unique value proposition and their customer success stories. They build a favorable reputation of their company in the mind of the prospective customer.

You must have an arsenal of third-party testimonials that expound upon your company's impeccable reputation. Or you can copy Johnson & Johnson's strategy of developing, following, and then sharing a powerful corporate credo with potential customers.

If you're a business owner or manager, see to it that such reputation-enhancing tools are available to your salespeople and customer service personnel. And do your part to make sure the reputation you're selling is based in reality. Great employees won't stick with a not-so-great company for long.

Market your personal reputation. Although corporate reputation matters, your personal reputation matters even more. People buy from people. You must preframe customers by promoting your personal identity so that buyers seek you out, instead of you seeking them out.

There are countless ways to get yourself known by your prospective buyers, including email and direct mail promotions, newsletters, customer site visits and seminars, association involvement, public speaking, and writing articles. All kinds of these creative marketing strategies help form your reputation as someone customers know and trust.

Get your customer service personnel and salespeople to buy into the power of reputation, and you'll begin to establish yourself as a company that your customers can trust. And more than that, your "VP's of Reputation" will experience greater success and fulfillment.

Tell your employees about an interesting practice of the ancient Romans, who were known for their achievements in construction. When they finished building an arch, the engineer in charge was expected to stand beneath it when the scaffolding was removed. If the arch didn't hold, he was the first to know. Encourage your employees to build their reputation (and your company's) so that they can stand beneath it with confidence and pride.

George Ludwig, international speaker, sales trainer, and corporate consultant is a widely recognized authority on sales strategy and peak performance psychology. He's the bestselling author of Power Selling: Seven Strategies for Cracking the Sales Code and he can be reached at www.georgeludwig.com

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