More complicated than the discussion on leadership is the discussion of integrity as it borders on moral, ethical, political and religious boundaries, but to me it is core to one's success both professionally and personally.
What is integrity really? According to one online dictionary it is a noun, meaning adherence to moral and ethical principles; soundness of moral character; honesty. Humans argue over what moral or ethical principles actually are. But honesty is less subjective. Although being honest means not only being honest with others but truly means being honest with one's self which seems to be one of the harder parts of honesty for some. You really can't be honest with others if you are not honest with yourself first.
Some people and companies are unwavering in their core values. Some core values are good, others not so much. So what defines a lack of integrity? It seems that it is intrinsically tied to-when money is more important than people and customers. Those people or organizations that are epitomized with low integrity right now come from the recent BP oil spill debacle, the banking and loans scandals or Bernie Madoff and his merry band of thieves. Of lesser note are the summer doorknockers or the chronic low ballers of pricing who compromise system quality and thus the customer's safety (in varying degrees) for the almighty buck.
In these financially straining times we are all challenged to set aside some of our own standards or our personal integrity to make sure there is cash flow, happy stockholders and banks or happy owners, operators and managers. There is no question that there have been fewer resources for all of us to develop profits with and thus business compromises have had to be made. There have been exceptional pressures applied to us, from many angles, for many reasons. So where do we draw the line on what we do, how and when if we are under such pressure?
Drawing the line
Those with less integrity are likely to stoop even lower, but for good people how do you shave costs, balance expenses and keep quality at its best? Short cuts unquestionably will lower quality and misinformation given to customers to make a sale will come back to us, reflecting badly on the person and the company who chose the low road.
We are all challenged every day, many times a day, to make decisions, decisions of all kinds. Perhaps we need to take a few moments right now and think through what we do and why. Do you make decisions too quickly without much thought or because you have always done it this way or this is what you were taught to do or because you need the money? When you make a decision is it because "I" or "they" need this?
What would happen if you focused on your integrity, making integrity your competitive advantage? There are some doing this already and finding it pretty compelling.
The better you serve your customer's needs the greater respect your customers will have for you and this respect will produce your highest quality results. When you make the right choices for your customers, you have the ability to defend your decisions articulately, passionately, with intelligence that explains why this is the right way to go. Integrity sells. You can explain your logic and give customers choices, allowing projects to be implemented over time to better manage costs and provide a higher return on investment along with more efficiency for the customer. Using integrity in every part of your business lifts everyone up and identifies those in the company who maybe don't fit with this philosophy.
Yes, life is very complicated and never perfect. But choosing the right path for the right reasons will enhance your business today and lay the ground work for your best possible growth and deepest personal reward.