Integrity

 

I read a story about a man named John who was being head-hunted by a high-end executive in Hong Kong. The powerful executive took him to a fancy restaurant and slipped $600 to the owner to provide the best table available. They barely sat down when he whispered to John – “We’ll pay you a salary of $200K, provide you with a nice office, and a car and driver if you’ll come work for us.” John simply responded casually, “I am not interested.” John, thinking to himself said, “I could have saved this man $600 plus if he had asked me this question over the phone!” Stunned, the businessman asked, “How much are you making now?” John did not hesitate. “Eight thousand dollars. But that’s not the point. I am doing what I am supposed to do and I’ve never been happier.” John rejected the attractive offer because he was a man of integrity.

What comes to your mind when you hear the word, 'Integrity'? The Merriam-Webster online dictionary defines integrity as a firm adherence to a code of especially moral or artistic values; an unimpaired condition and the quality or state of being complete or undivided. Some of the synonyms associated with integrity include character, honesty, decency, goodness, uprightness and, virtuousness. When people of integrity are being sought out, can we be chosen? Can we be trusted to act with integrity or do we follow the crowd and act based on convenience and self-preservation?

The month of April was a challenging month for me. I was presented with multiple opportunities to compromise my integrity and abandon my values but I value integrity way too much. I think it's important for us to be people of integrity. We mustn't do anything halfway. We must be fully engaged or not all. We must be either all-in or not in at all. We must know what our values are and act in accordance. As Mark Twain said: "Always do right. This will gratify some people and astonish the rest." Doing the right thing whether people are watching us or not is the only route to true success. Real call to service and leadership only comes from things that cannot be acquired with money but only through sincerity and integrity.

The truth is we are often not as honest with ourselves as we ought to be. Many get up in the morning and go to jobs they thoroughly detest. Rather than take the time to find where their true passions lie and align their lives to real purpose, they get up day after day, telling themselves, "At least I am making some money." We make commitments we have no intention of keeping but make them anyway for financial gratification. And any time our motives are strictly for financial gain we get stuck in the rut of convenience. We act only when it is fitting and not necessarily because it is right. We talk a good game in the company of those we deem important but do not act to advance the work that needs to be done. When we perform without integrity, what we are doing is acting based purely on personal gain rather than in alignment with imbibed personal values. As Bréné Brown put it, to be a person of integrity means "Choosing courage over comfort; choosing what is right over what is fun, fast or easy; and choosing to practice our values rather than simply professing them."

I would rather suffer than compromise my integrity. I am who I am. I believe what I believe and no external circumstance or pressure can ever change that. It's much simpler and cheaper for me to be who I am regardless of whether I find myself indoors or outdoors. So I ask you, are you a person of integrity? To be a leader without integrity is almost always a disaster waiting to happen. Even if you don't appear to be losing in public, your loss in private although hidden and undisclosed will be astronomical because integrity is one the most respected traits of true leadership. If you are a leader, do your people see you as a person of integrity? Is integrity your tool of choice when it comes to persuading others to embrace your vision or is intimidation? Without integrity, leadership is completely devoid of character and trust. One might have the title but never the position; at least not in people's hearts.

However, I must warn you that there is often a steep price to pay for being a person of integrity especially when you are surrounded by people who have none. If you are going to live and work out of your value system, you must be prepared for opposition from people who have no desire to do the same. If you are going to be a person of great character; one who does what is right even if no one else does, you have to be ready to be overlooked especially in situations where there is no quest for the truth but rather a need to simply do business-as-usual. But I would rather live my life without fear and guilt than to knowingly do that which is wrong and violates the values I profess to live by for personal gain. Winning is ever only worthwhile if one's integrity is not abandoned in the process.

One of my favorite African writers, Chinua Achebe said: "One of the truest tests of integrity is its blunt refusal to be compromised." So I ask again, do you see yourself as a person of integrity, or have you compromised yourself over and over again?

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