What Does Integrity Really Mean?

Did you know that integrity is the most mentioned business value in the world? In almost all cultures the concept of integrity comes at the top of the list which also includes collaboration, creativity, and communication.

Integrity is such a BIG word. Question is “What does it really mean?”

Traditional ways of thinking about integrity include what I call ‘The 5 B’s’:

  • Be honest
  • Be respectful
  • Be courageous
  • Be balanced 
  • Be consistent

Sounds good. They all fit as part of the definition of integrity. And yet…

  • Be honest: have you ever told any little white lies or a big one?
  • Be respectful: Have you ever judged someone as soon as you met them?
  • Be courageous: Have you ever held back to play it safe?
  • Be balanced: Have you ever exaggerated to make points for yourself?
  • Be consistent: Have you ever over-promised and under-delivered?

Here I would like to offer another perspective about integrity. It’s about shining the light on the consequences of your behavior. I suggest that integrity must include taking the time to think through the results of our actions and the impact they can have over time.

The 1967 film “The Graduate” had a striking moment when Benjamin Braddock (Dustin Hoffman) a recent college graduate is back at home with his parents as he tries to avoid the one question everyone keeps asking him about what he wants to do with his life.

A very helpful man pulls Benjamin aside to offer him career advice and says to him with a sure and smug attitude… “There’s just one thing I want to say” to which the college grad asks “What” and the man replies, “Plastic.” 

By the early ’70s, the idea of everything plastic was where the winners would make their fortunes. Selling water (selling water?) in plastic bottles was becoming the rage.

Needless to say, there is more to the story, including Mrs. Robinson. It’s a fascinating film directed by Mike Nichols and a good one to re-see or see for the first time.

In any case, who would have thought that something so simple and useful like plastic could become the worst possible thing for our planet 50 years later?

Thinking through the consequences of our actions and how people and situations and things impact each other is at the core of integrity. We MUST start asking different questions and making a longer timeline for our actions and the reactions that will occur.

And that is the essence of integrity: to integrate all aspects of a situation and as best as we can,  and do no harm.

Business icon, Warren Buffett says it perfectly, “In looking for people to hire, look for three qualities: integrity, intelligence, and energy. And if they don’t have the first one, the other two will kill you.”

In all of our leadership programs we teach that “We’re all connected, and no one wins unless we all do.”

And that, my friends, is the core of long term, sustainable integrity.

Want to know more about where you fit with leadership values? Go to www.ceoptions.com, take the leadership quiz and contact us to go over the results.

Also, for all the female professionals please join our private women leaders Facebook group. Here is the link to the Facebook group:  https://www.facebook.com/groups/womenleadersinnercircle 

Creative Energy Options

Sylvia Lafair

Creative Energy Options