Integrity as both a personal and an organizational value is one of the central and recurring themes of this blog. Promoting and supporting integrity in individuals as well as in the groups in which they live and work is essential to encouraging cultures of compliance and ethical decision-making. Indeed, the foundation of the moral conduct people wish to see in each other and in their institutions in order to enhance the stature of truth and honesty in today’s complicated, interconnected world starts with placing personal emphasis on integrity and character ethic. With a strong and well-articulated individual commitment to moral engagement, people can purposefully contribute to the integrity of the communities in which they live, the groups in which they gather, and the organizations in which they work.
- Aligning integrity with identity (Lester Tanaka) – Commitment to any character ethic value must be authentic. A person cannot decide to have integrity without actually embracing the honesty, judgment, fairness, transparency, and credibility that goes along with possessing this trait. Claiming to have it, without actually genuinely imbedding it, goes against the grain of the entire concept of integrity itself. Therefore individuals must, as Lester Tanaka suggests, make concrete and meaningful for themselves the interrelationship between the mental and the moral. A person’s identity should be aligned with and connected to the value of integrity and their intention to live with it. Therefore, all the other traits for which an individual has an affinity should be consistent with the goal of integrity. Self-examination and self-reflection will be both necessary to identify these corresponding characteristics as well as important for thoughtful and organic personal integrity.
- Integrity as a currency for leadership (Barth Nnaji) – Integrity is also a core value for leadership. When faced with opposition or adversity, challenge or doubt, ethical leaders can always rely upon their integrity to represent themselves as credible, rise above the fray, and maintain a firm grip on ethical standards for decision-making and conduct. One of the differences between a manager and an ethical leader is, in fact, this commitment to their sense of integrity and the feeling of a strong responsibility to resist negative temptation or becoming overwhelmed by the magnitude of their tasks. True leaders stick to their own values and indeed promote their own integrity as the “currency” needed to get things done in collaboration with other people and organizations. Leaders who consider their reputations as one of their main assets would seek to protect the way they are seen by others by staying true to the expectations for their credibility and reliability. This way, people who lead with integrity become people with whom others wish to be associated, compared, and involved.
- Building integrity – keeping promises (Erick Rainey) – Establishing integrity does not have to be an academic or theoretical challenge with abstract and lofty metrics by which its success is measured. Having integrity is as simple as keeping promises. Walking the walk, taking responsibility, and following through are simple but incredibly impactful actions which, when repeated, establish a pattern of integrity and worthiness of trust and reliance. This goes for individuals as well as for organizations. Delivering on commitments or being honest and transparent about it when it’s not possible to do so puts the value of integrity into powerful action.
- Integrity and authenticity don’t make you trustworthy (Struan Robertson) – As noted in this earlier post, expectations for and ideas about trust, honesty, and the truth are all being transformed by today’s digital society. Shifting moral evaluations and perceptions of what is or is not true too often promote a convincing and compelling brand of dishonesty over difficult or complicated truth. In this environment there are many complex factors against true credibility and integrity. Simply appearing to be “good” or wanting to identify others as “evil” is not sufficient. Being relied upon is also not the same as being trusted or trustworthy. As discussed above, commitment to integrity has to be both authentic and practical. An individual and all the individuals which make up organizations have to have an organic, real commitment to integrity in order to truly act with it, rather than to just pretend or attempt at it.
- Integrity and the Life of the Planet (Zale Zeviar) – Apart from the integrity of individuals in both private life and the work place, corporate integrity is so important in society’s attempts to solve huge challenges, such as making environmentally-friendly consumer choices. The transparency and openness that acting with integrity and moral certitude can bring is also applicable to business core values. Accountability for earth-friendly business practices and products is just one expression of corporate social responsibility that exhibits business integrity. Small changes by consumers can be enabled by community and business values which can help the whole system to aspire to a higher level of integrity. This “corporate consciousness” is an active expression of integrity that spreads, aligning all the players in the chain universally around integrity as the common theme.
As shown above, defining integrity as a core value in all areas of life – self-identification, leadership, relationships with others, community engagement, social responsibility – is a powerful, purpose-driven approach. A commitment to recognizing integrity as a virtue and using a strong internal sense of its importance for one’s personal moral code enables individuals to be credible and responsible and to model these values to each other. With time, institutions and organizations will reflect the integrity promoted by the individuals within them, elevating the ethical register of society.