Changing the world while acting with integrity: honoring your unstated commitments
Acting with integrity comes naturally to most of us.
After all, in trying to solve societies most pressing social and environmental problems, we are indicating how much we care about the world and people around us.
Yet, there are many moments as leaders where acting with integrity can be challenging. We might find our own moral or ethical compass is pulling us in two directions at once. I want to propose that in addition to a more general understanding of integrity, being a leader in driving social change requires a specific type of integrity: honoring our commitments, including the unstated ones.
I try to be consistent about honoring my commitments and upfront and apologetic about the ones I end up not being able to honor. What can be more difficult is recognizing when you've made a commitment without stating it openly. When people involved in driving change share a struggle they are dealing with, they may be expecting you to hold that information confidential. When you go into a community to learn from them about the issues they are facing, they may be expecting you to help them act on those issues.
These types of unstated expectations are also a commitment we are making - by entering into a dialogue that asks others to be vulnerable and expose their concerns, we are implying a commitment to appropriate and respectful action. Yet, our definition of appropriate action may not match the definitions of those we are engaging and if space isn’t given to process these unstated commitments, it can be easy to break them unintentionally.
Given that, it is critical to take the time to think about what others might be assuming as a result of your engagement, ask about their expectations, and state what commitments you can, and cannot, make.
Are there any unstated commitments you've made lately? How did you realize they were made and what have you done in response?