It may be ironic that one of the few places that the word integrity appears
in your company is at the water cooler. Yes, you intentionally hung that poster
announcing your corporate values at the location most famous for gossip. How’s
that working for you? Is it just a poster decorating the wall, or does the word
integrity mean more to you? Does your company operate with high moral character?
Check out these six principles to find out.
Most people, when asked, equate integrity with honesty. Honesty means … well
we all know what honesty means. But most of us struggle to define integrity.
It’s not just operating from a position of high moral character and being
truthful. Integrity comes from the Latin word integer meaning whole, or
complete. But what does it mean to have integrity?
John Maxwell, author of several leadership books, offers this broad
definition, “Integrity commits itself to character over personal gain, people
over things, service over power, discipline over impulse, commitment over
convenience, and the long view over the immediate”.
Let’s take a look at each one of the key phrases in Maxwell’s statement:
• “Character over personal gain”
Character builds the trust required to gain support from employees, suppliers
and customers alike, and to build strong and sustainable organizations. If your
climb to the top of the corporate ladder is built on personal gain alone, then
you will have not developed any trust within the organization. Instead you may
have built a culture where everyone is looking simply for what is in it for
them. Who, then, is working in the best service of the customer? Ask yourself if
you’re doing the right thing, not just what feels good.
• “People over things”
Businesses are run by people, and by all the people in them. Customers buy
from people. People provide service and support to clients. Focus on the needs
of your people to ensure you have a highly motivated and empowered workforce.
This must take a higher priority than fancy buildings, furniture, and the
accumulation of objects. Your people will learn that they can rely on you.
• “Service over power”
Leaders must place a high priority on helping their people be more
productive. This includes providing clear direction, allocating resources,
assisting in problem solving, giving advice and counsel, and breaking down
barriers. This way they will be serving their employees and their organizations
and building loyal and highly effective teams. By contrast, a leader who
operates only by exerting control over people communicates their selfish desires
clearly. That trust will be vital when challenging the organization to new goals
or to meet unexpected changes.
• “Discipline over impulse”
Occasionally opportunities present themselves that would offer an immediate
gain. In order to benefit from an opportunity, a disciplined leader must
determine whether they will have to compromise any values, risk any
relationships, or break any trust. That discipline keeps the leader and the
organization on an even keel.
• “Commitment over convenience”
Commitment requires a relentless pursuit of your mission every day and in
every decision you make. Leaders must do what they say and demonstrate that they
intend to successfully execute their goals over time. This is a constant and
persistent process of communicating and planning and executing. Keeping the
organization on its course.
• “The long view over the immediate”
Sometimes the easy path might appear more convenient and with more immediate
gratification. If it takes the organization away from its vision the long term
impact of that decision is very costly. Leading with integrity means that you
evaluate every decision or course of action for consistency with the vision and
direction of the company.
Focus on integrity first, and on its true meaning of wholeness and
completeness, then you can build an organization where honesty and trust are
never taken for granted. Better yet, you will create a sustainable profitable
enterprise that can withstand and endure the many challenges it will face.
Barron’s, financial weekly magazine, defines integrity as “The quality
characterized by honesty, reliability, and fairness, developed in a relationship
over time. Customers and clients have much more confidence when dealing with a
business when they can rely on the representations made.”
Author: Patrick Smyth. Business advisor. Serving business leaders in planning