Zen is you – Be.

Interesting question on Integrity

Posted in values by dave225 on February 22, 2011

Someone sent this question to me today: “Why do people think that Integrity, particularly in Leadership, is a hard thing to find today?”

My answer:

Integrity is trueness to your own values and trueness to your cause. But sometimes in order to accomplish anything in an environment where goals and values are competing, you have to compromise. So it’s the degree to which you are willing to compromise that your integrity is measured. And depending on the environment in which you are working (e.g. politics, industry-vs-regulation-vs-ethics) the choice may in fact be between integrity and progress. (Progress or rapid realization of goals, e.g. making a bunch of money.)

So it all comes back to leadership. If your choices are between integrity and progress, the system is broken and needs leadership to align the goals.


… but I’m interested in other people’s answers – beyond the idea that “people are jerks and money drives behavior.” That’s too easy. Assuming that most individuals are decent, why is there a perception that they are not? Or why are people decent as individuals, but jerks as a collective?


3 Responses

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  1. shari4health said, on February 22, 2011 at 5:30 am

    Integrity is when you handle every situation the same…with honesty, grace & professionalism. Even if that means that you don’t get what you want. It doesn’t matter what profession you are in or what religion you are involved in. Integrity is the same…it’s timeless. Be honest with yourself…be honest with your fellow man and be honest with your creator…this is integrity!

  2. Andy Havens said, on February 22, 2011 at 4:20 pm

    I believe there is more integrity out there, in leaders and others, than is often recognized, for two reasons. First, integrity is one of those things like oxygen; you don’t take note of the presence of it, but only the lack. So if someone is behaving with integrity 999 times out of 1,000, you notice the absence, even if it is a very small thing. What’s the threshold for integrity? 100% adherence to some core value at all times? Which can be difficult, as we often hold more than one value as important, and sometimes they conflict.

    Secondly, I think that people tend to equate “I didn’t get what I want from that person” as a lack of integrity on their part. Whether that’s because of a conflict of values (“I value something more highly or differently than you, so your response isn’t one of integrity”), or because we simply don’t like to not get what we want. It is very, very hard (I believe) to approach a situation in which our personal wishes have been overridden and go away with the attitude, “The person who said ‘no’ to me had a very good reason to do so; I’m satisfied with the moral and intellectual reasoning behind that decision.”

    In 20-ish years of corporate life, I have only witnessed a handful of what I’d deem true breaks with integrity on the part of leaders; someone clearly going back on their word, blaming a subordinate for their failure, treating people really disrespectfully. The more frequent failures I’ve seen in leadership have been less ones of moral strength (adherence to principle) than logistical ones (adherence to process). And, for better or worse, changing ones mind (for example) isn’t seen as a moral issue, even if it makes for questionable leadership.

    • dave225 said, on February 22, 2011 at 7:46 pm

      I agree – people are generally not short of integrity, but we perceive them that way because their ideals do not match our own.

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