What Leading with Integrity Looks Like

I know I’m not alone in the feeling that this election has been hard to understand and process.  It’s particularly difficult for me because so much of my career has been focused on helping regular people -- primarily young women -- realize that there is a place for them in politics.  And even more, that we desperately need them to lead our communities and country.

But this political cycle has fostered feelings well beyond the typical disinterest or skepticism. Donald Trump has brought us incendiary language, disrespect for the process, and a hateful presentation of leadership that makes the work of persuading new people to engage in public service feel impossible.

I know that his candidacy has been very difficult for a number (frankly most) of my Republican friends whom I have come to know and work with during my career here in Washington.  Many of my conservative friends just can’t get behind their party’s nominee.  I realize it is a difficult exercise for many of them, but what I appreciate about their decision not to stand with Trump is that they are leading with their convictions and their integrity – not simply with their party affiliation.  And as a person committed to my own political party, I empathize with this struggle.

I am a Democrat.  I believe my party has the best approach to policy concerns and works toward an inclusive big-tent kind of structure.  I have often been critical of Republicans who don’t espouse the importance of bringing more diversity to their party, particularly with respect to actively cultivating women and people of color in their leadership.  But I do have complete respect for the Republican Party and some of the approaches the party has taken to tackle our country and world’s most difficult challenges.  I don’t always agree, but I appreciate Republican thinking at many points during our debates, and isn’t that the point of negotiating the best policy outcomes?

Thankfully we are seeing more and more examples of people who have looked past allegiance with their party and want to stand by their convictions and for what is best.  Former California gubernatorial candidate and businesswoman Meg Whitman, a slew of top Republican national security officials, and just today, Senator Susan Collins, have all come out to say they do not support Trump.  Meg Whitman even went as a far as to say that she will actively help Secretary Clinton get elected. While I don’t expect all of my Republican friends to jump on the Hillary bandwagon, I appreciate them standing up vocally to say Trump does not represent their party.  He does not represent what is good and what we should expect of our leaders.  He does not represent a leader with compassion, intelligence, restraint, and appreciation for the process that our founders established so many years ago and has led to this incredible experiment called America.

This kind of outpouring of their beliefs is a great example of integrity.  It gives me confidence and hope in a time when life feels extremely difficult and hate seems to pour out of our television sets.  

When I looked up the definition of integrity the first set of words shares what most people think when they think about integrity: honesty, moral uprightness, strong principals.  But the second definition is even more illustrative.  Integrity is also “the state of being whole and undivided.”  And isn’t that a profound contrast from what we are hearing?

Our great country deserves leaders with integrity.  Let’s appreciate those who are willing to stand up for their own convictions.  Let’s hold hope and support for the belief that we as a country will be stronger in the end when we are brought together, not when we are divided.

Jessica Grounds1 Comment