Who would admit to having no integrity?

How many of you have come across organisations where one of the company values or leadership values is integrity?

And even if you haven’t explicitly seen this as a value, would you agree that it is often an unstated principle that people will act with integrity?

So how can it be that criticism often comes when the organisation or the leaders within it appear to lack integrity. Do people go out of their way to act without integrity or does conflict occur when one persons version of integrity is different to another?

A couple of definitions of integrity may help to answer this question…………

Integrity is regarded as the honesty and truthfulness or accuracy of one’s actions
or
The adherence to moral and ethical principles; soundness of moral character; honesty.

With these definitions it seems that the interpretation of integrity is therefore dependent on each persons map of the world, their own values and their own moral compass. Therefore, when someone is seen to act without integrity, have they really or is it that our version of integrity doesn’t match theirs?

Let’s take as an example the recent actions of Greg Smith, the guy who distributed his view of the Goldman Sachs culture and leadership. Did he or did he not act with integrity? I suspect that some people would say that he absolutely did, that he was honest, truthful and accurate (see definition) whilst others may question his reasons for doing it and question his moral character.

When integrity is so often a characteristic that is highlighted as essential for leaders I question if this is realistic. Surely it means that we must all operate with the same version of what is right and wrong, the same version of what is morally acceptable, the same version of what honesty is.

I wonder therefore, when integrity is put up as a value or principle and when it is seen as an essential part of leadership what is actually meant? Obviously organisations want people to act within a moral framework that is appropriate for that particular organisation, does this need to be defined more clearly so people understand what integrity means in that particular environment? Is acting with integrity the same in every organisation or might it vary if say you work in the tobacco industry, the armed forces, social services, financial services or retail?

It seems that organisations need to dig deeper to interpret integrity more clearly. What thoughts do you have on whether or not integrity can vary and how it can be defined more clearly in different organisations?

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1 Response to “Who would admit to having no integrity?”


  1. 1 Greg.Wallace.Comixt 29/03/2012 at 10:48 pm

    My definition of integrity is …
    … “doing what you say you are going to do”.

    If I say I will be there at 10:00am, and I arrive at 10:00am or slightly before, then I am acting with integrity.

    If I arrive at 10:15am or even 10:05am, I am not acting with integrity.

    (Bugger. OK, it is me! I am the person who will admit they act with no integrity – actually me and time are not that close.)

    Apart from time, I know that I am quite conscious of doing what I say I will do.

    When I do I feel like I am thriving.

    When I don’t I feel quite disappointed in myself.

    Having said all this, I also know that I am very conscious of my definition of integrity – “I will do what I say I am going to do”.

    This may vary tremendously with what other people might ‘want’ me to do or ‘assume’ that I will do.

    Perhaps the confusion comes when the definition is twisted into – “you will do what I think you should do”.

    (have you met my kids?)


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