Integrity is the quality of possessing and steadfastly adhering to high moral principles or professional standards. I’ve suffered from a couple of instances recently where we have been treated in a way that lacks integrity. One of the most fundamental tenets of the Russell HR business ethic is to treat all our business contacts honestly and well, be they clients, prospects, suppliers, associates, internal or outsourced team members. They are all treated with the same integrity and courtesy. I take a very dim view of it if that doesn’t happen and I have fired a number of team members who haven’t complied. Most of our clients treat us in the same way so it was a shock recently when one of them dumped us unceremoniously, in breach of contract citing a reason which was patently untrue. They refused to discuss it and it became clear they had their own agenda. Well, it was unpleasant but not the end of the world and to be honest who wants a client so lacking in integrity?
There are many examples of temporary winners who won by showing a lack of integrity. For a number of years, Enron was cited as one of America’s most innovating and daring companies. Enron’s success was built on lies, and the executives who headed the company are case studies in lack of integrity. But companies like this often don’t succeed in the long term.
It may be old-fashioned but I think integrity in business matters. I’m not alone in my view Warren Bennis, the well-known expert on organisational leadership, puts it well: Managers are people who do things right; leaders are people who do the right thing.
Integrity is the most important trait of leadership in our society because regardless of what other beneficial characteristics exist, people will not follow someone unless they have established trust with them. Integrity means doing the right thing because it is the right thing to do. And that’s what makes success. Leaders with integrity make promises thoughtfully, perhaps even reluctantly, but once they have given that promise, they follow through on that promise. And they always tell the truth.
Authort Enrique Fiallo wrote: There are many things you can lack and still steer clear of danger. Integrity isn’t one of them. Establish a set of sound ethics policies, integrate them into all business processes, communicate them broadly to all employees, and make clear that you will not tolerate any deviation from any of them. Then live by them. You cannot set policies that employees need to live by, and not live by them yourself.
Leaders with integrity face up to the truth. They are prepared to see and deal with the world as it really is, not as they wish it to be. They stick to the truth even if the truth is unpleasant. Integrity is a state of mind. If you compromise your integrity in small situations with little consequence, then it becomes very easy to compromise on the small situations.
More than once I have walked away from a business relationship which made me uncomfortable – either because we were being treated badly and without courtesy by our client or the client’s team members were being treated badly. I can’t condone either. In the instant case I which was not unhappy to part company with my former client once they had shown their true colours. You just can’t trust people like that.
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