I once said that Integrity is the Most Important Requirement in a Manager. I still believe that. But you can't just ask, “How much integrity do you have?” That's a leading question. Or, what if you are a company like Enron, where the entire upper management culture was one of deceit?
You have to get to integrity in another way. If you are hiring a management candidate, you want to ask the question in this way: “Tell me about some recent times you had to make a difficult decision, one that affected your personal integrity. What were the circumstances and what happened?”
Now, you hush. You keep your mouth shut and your ears open. Listen for whether it was about product shipment, employee relations, or financial issues—or all three. If a manager candidate—especially a senior candidate—says he or she did not have these decisions, this candidate has not been a manager. Or, is living on another planet. Or has no integrity. Or you didn't ask the question properly. It's difficult for me to believe that a manager has not encountered a problem where he or she has not made a difficult decision about something that has brought his or her personal morals or integrity up against the company's stated needs.
Watch for my blog post about Hiring Effective Executives on Vistage's blog on Jan. 8, 2013.