"What's good for the goose is good for the gander."
I heard about a Police Chief who quite frequently used profanity during interpersonal conversations and staff meetings. I later heard that the same Chief upheld disciplinary action against an Officer who received a complaint for using profanity during a very intense call.
What message do you think was sent? What do you think happened to the morale of the troops or their loyalty to the Chief?
Now, I'll be the first to tell you that in over 9 years on the job I never once used profanity. I worked some pretty rough areas and got into some fairly difficult situations, but was as effective as anyone else. I don't think you have to use profanity to be a successful police officer. But that's not the point.
The point is that the leader sent an inconsistent message, even if it was unintentional. If it's OK for the Chief to use profanity on the job, then why is it not OK for Officers to use profanity on the job?
By definition, the word "integrity" refers to soundness, being consistent throughout, whole, undivided. One of the fastest ways to undermine your leadership and create division is through a lack of integrity - actions that are inconsistent or perceived to be based upon varying standards.
I want to continue the theme of "Great Leaders" with another principle found in the life of King Jehoshaphat in 2 Chronicles 19. In verse 3, he is exhorted for living a morally upright life. Because he set the example, in verse 4 he is recorded as "bringing the people back to the Lord," which is to say they put aside evil practices and lived after his example.
Great leaders set the standard with integrity. They live the example before holding others accountable. And when they fail, they are honest, open, and demonstrate how to recover.