It seems the question of “What is Integrity” at some point comes up in every discussion about leadership. It doesn’t appear that the experts, some would say I am one of them, can agree on one clearly defined answer.
Here’s how Merriam-Webster defines integrity:
Definition of integrity
Although accurate, not sure it completely helps us truly understand what having integrity means.
Sure, it’s someone that tells the truth, or in other words, is honest. But what happens when your mother comes into the room and asks you how her new dress looks, and honestly you think it is horrendous. Do you tell her the truth? Or at best, do you modify your answer to say that it doesn’t bring out your beauty that other dresses I’ve seen you wear, do. Is that truly honest. Maybe it would be better to tell her it looks terrible on her. I suppose it depends on what type of relationship you have with your mother.
The point is, it isn’t just about being honest. It’s about something much deeper and more profound.
So, What Is Integrity?
Maybe you have, or maybe you haven’t, heard someone say that if you aren’t afraid to read a front page article in the newspaper about something you did, you are acting with integrity.
This sounds good on the surface, and in many cases, may be true. But does it really cut to the core of what integrity is?
To really understand integrity, we must know what our core beliefs are. Those beliefs that all our decisions in our life are determined by.
As an example, I am against stealing. I would guess, and hope, that almost everyone reading this would agree with that simple statement. If it is truly a core value of mine, then stealing anything would drive my decision.
So, let’s put that to the test!
By surprise I was just recognized with a large cash award during a large company meeting for something I had very little to do with. In fact, the person that was heavily involved with the accomplishment was not present, nor did they receive anything at all for their efforts.
Now what do you do?
The electric company made a major mistake on your bill and under charged you by $47. You decide to wait until the next billing cycle to see if they correct their mistake. On the next bill they didn’t adjust it, so again you tell yourself you will wait another billing cycle. The same thing happens three more times for a total of six months and still nothing.
Now what do you do?
The easy thing to do is nothing and keep the large cash award and ignore the billing mistake.
However, people with integrity don’t take the easy way in most cases. They fall back on their core values and act upon those values to correct the situation.
Those same core values could be tied to being truthful, treating people fairly, doing your best, and so many other leadership traits. Therefore, the question you must ask yourself is, “What are your core values?”