“I sometimes allowed my competitiveness to get in the way of my integrity”
Quote from Australian Sportsperson
There is a strong argument that integrity is one of the most misunderstood concepts in life and in business.
Many people equate integrity with honesty. So many organisations have as one of their values “we will be honest and open” that it has almost become a meaningless cliché. Honesty and openness are both elements of integrity but they are not integrity itself.
Indeed, you can be dishonest and still have integrity. Do magicians lack integrity because they perform illusions and tricks on their audiences? Do they lack integrity because they maintain the mystique around their performances, refusing to be open about how they create their art? Magicians have integrity because they commit to a set of known values and their actions match those commitments.
Integrity is a hallmark of leadership. It is the alignment of values, vision, strategy and actions in ways that can be tested.
The test for integrity is whether your actions meet the expectations you have created through the values you have set and your stated goals.
Whether you pass that test is both a judgement for yourself and a judgement for others. Whether the judgement of others is important depends on the relationship they have with you or your business, how they can impact on your reputation and how you can learn from those opinions.
You may have heard that perception can be as important as reality. The values you set and the goals you state create perceptions, your actions are reality. Comparing one to the other defines your integrity.
In a sense, integrity is not a value in itself, but the goal of living to your values to the best of your abilities. When an organisation sets integrity as one of their values, I like to ask what they mean by the term. Usually they start by falling back on honesty, but after discussion they usually come up with some variation of “walking the talk” or matching their behaviour to their words.
Delving deeper into this “value” usually leads to more practical values that better define the organisation, in the same way that mining an organisation’s vision statement will lead to practical goals and objectives.
I’m sure you’ve heard of structural integrity. The integrity of a plane relies on the combination and quality of materials and workmanship that creates the plane.
Think of integrity not as a value in itself, but as the alignment between your organisation’s shared values and vision, and the actions taken by the people in your organisation. This will lead you to more practical and effective values and strategies.