Redefining Integrity in Leadership: Silicon Valley’s Sexual Harassment Epidemic Offers a Cautionary Tale

Silicon Valley is responding to another set of sexual harassment scandals[1] that threaten shareholder value. Ferrazzi Greenlight sees such egregious violations of leadership integrity like sexually harassment, thievery, telling blatant untruths, as the outcomes of another set of catalytic integrity breaches of poor leadership including a lack of candor, lack of strong peer-to-peer accountability, lack of team commitment to each other, lack of service among leaders and a lack of strong collaborative dialog. This inventory of catalytic integrity behaviors are not only critical because their violations predict downstream more egregious integrity breaches of behavior but they themselves are also proven to be stealing from shareholders.

Why Your Team Needs to Redefine Integrity

A recent study by Robert Half Management Resources has found that integrity is ranked as the most important leadership trait, which makes sense since people are more likely to follow and be loyal to leaders who model admirable behavior. Defining that integrity, though, is a different matter. In a fluid environment where industries change rapidly, it’s critical that leadership teams commit to a collaborative mindset that focuses on everyone succeeding collectively while assuming responsibility for the individual success of each teammate.

Paramount to creating, and more importantly sustaining, this new definition of integrity is candor; without it, accountability and productivity suffer. I’ve long coached the importance of candor to any team’s success, but in the digital age where change can happen overnight, withholding it in favor of team harmony or “getting along” can be detrimental.

Of course, creating that mindset requires work and commitment. In our work with leadership teams, we coach them to establish what we call High-Impact Teams (HIT). Our HIT coaching introduces your high-performers to the power of candor, peer-to-peer coaching, and a team-first spirit that produces an intimacy within the team that breaks down the barriers and establishes a safe space for everyone to be able to express themselves, even when doing so is difficult.

The First Step to Redefining Integrity on Your Leadership Team

A key first step to developing that intimacy is a practice we call “Red Flag Rules,” or a team’s rules of engagement. Unlike most rules at work that focus on processes—what we are supposed to do and how we are supposed to do it—Red Flag Rules are about relationships; how we should be with one another. They are commitments we make to our teammates to engage in ways that create trust and psychological safety.

It’s important that all the teammates share a commitment to how they will treat one another. From there give participants a preview of the rules so they have the opportunity to think critically about them and how they should be used in practice and allow participants to contribute to or amend the list. By having a hand in shaping the rules that governs each person’s behavior makes everyone more likely to abide by them.

Putting It Into Practice: Red Flag Rules

Consider these rules for candor and accountability:

  • Speak your mind in service of your teammates, even when it feels risky to do so
  • No sidebar conversations.
  • Vegas Rules, i.e. confidentiality, unless otherwise notified.
  • Focus on winning together. Your results are my results.
  • Go Higher Together. Own your teammates becoming great.
  • Care enough to commit to each other no matter what.

Above all else, though, the rules should be in service of establishing a team that is committed to one another as well as to the success of the organization.

Any behavior, no matter how egregious, can be turned around if the team agrees in advance that it will no longer be accepted, but the team needs to know the full impact of those behaviors. Tolerating misconduct because for any reason doesn’t just affect the integrity and reputation of the individual. By not being forthright with the individual and holding them to account the team’s, and ultimately, the organization’s reputation is affected, leading to a detrimental impact on shareholder value.

[1] Why Is Silicon Valley So Awful to Women, Liza Mundy, April 2017


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Keith Ferrazzi

Keith Ferrazzi


New York Times best-selling author, speaker

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