When people think of integrity, they think of ethics and morals. For the purpose of this article, integrity is doing what you said you would do. And doing it when you said you would do it. One definition is: the state of being complete or undivided. Integrity is a way of being whole and complete. Without integrity, things tend to remain in a state ofincompleteness and fall apart.
If the integrity of your car was compromised, there is a chance it would fall apart or breakdown. That could be hazardous to your life.
If you look at your personal life, you can see areas where you do exactly what you said you would do. In those areas, things work well, even when there’s a hiccup. On the other hand, there are areas where you always have problems. For example, many people say they will go to the gym because they want to have a healthy body. At the beginning of January, the gym is filled with people who want to fulfill their New Year’s resolution. Within three months, the overwhelming majority of those people have abandoned the gym and their resolution. For some of those people, they constantly encounter problems with their physical health, especially when they are older.
If you are a leader and you lack integrity, you may find yourself sympathetic to others who lack integrity. And when your employees see you don’t do what you say, they’ll follow your lead.
In the past, I had a client who was the CEO of a company with about 200 employees. He often bragged about his infidelity with his fiancé. He told me all of his life he kept two women. One was the main woman the other was the back up. While he hired me as an advisor and executive coach for his business, I had a responsibility to address anything that could compromise his enterprise.
In one of our sessions I told him that I needed to discuss something important. I said it was kind of sensitive and he had the right to tell me to mind my business and only focus on issues that dealt with his company. Then I talked to him about integrity. I said your staff and mangers watch everything you do, even when you don’t know it. And they’ll follow your lead. When you say you always have to have two women in your life, you are not keeping your word with one of them. Because you are comfortable not keeping your word, you may be sympathetic towards others who are not keeping their word, even in your company. That mindset will shape your business’ corporate culture. Eventually you could have a culture like Enron where a lack of integrity is an acceptable part of the culture. At that point, it will be difficult for you to correct it. Besides, staff and management who know about your infidelity will dare you to lecture them about integrity.
Then I continued with the following: I am suggesting that if you want integrity in your organization, you have to have integrity throughout your life. If you’re willing to tell your fiancé that you always want to have a second woman and she agrees, you are in integrity. If not, let the other woman go. I also told him that I’m not telling you what to do. I am letting you know that I am committed to your success. If there is anything that could impede it, I’m committed to discuss it with you.
A couple of weeks later he sat down with me to tell me he ended the relationship with the other woman. He promised to keep integrity with his fiancé and his company.
As you can see, my conversation with my client had nothing to do with ethics and morals. If he wanted to have two women, that is fine. Simply let them both know. If they agree, that would be powerful, not because he has two women. He would be powerful because he would be straight and committed to wholeness and completeness – everything is completely communicated. They would all understand the situation and know how to get what they needed from it.
What do you think? I would love to hear your feedback. And I’m open to ideas. Or if you want to write me about a specific topic, let me know.