by John C. Maxwell
an excerpt from the Developing the Leader Within You book
The dictionary defines integrity as “the state of being complete, unified.” When I have integrity, my words and my deeds match up. I am who I am, no matter where I am or who I am with.
Sadly, integrity is a vanishing commodity today. Personal standards are crumbling in a world that has taken to hot pursuit of personal pleasure and shortcuts to success.
On a job application one question read, “Have you ever been arrested?” The applicant printed the word No in the space. The next question was a follow-up to the first. It asked, “Why?” Not realizing he did not have to answer this part, the “honest” and rather naive applicant wrote, “I guess it’s because I never got caught.”
A Jeff Danziger cartoon shows a company president announcing to his staff, “Gentlemen, this year the trick is honesty.” From one side of the conference table, a vice president gasps, “Brilliant.” Across the table, another VP mutters, “But so risky.”
In a cartoon in the New York, two clean-shaven middle-aged men are sitting together in a jail cell. One inmate turns to the other and says, “All along, I thought our level of corruption fell well within community standards.”
The White House, the Pentagon, Capitol Hill, the church, the sports arena, the academy, even the day care center have all been hit hard by scandal. In every case, the lack of credibility can be traced back to the level of integrity of the individuals within those organizations and institutions.
A person with integrity does not have divided loyalties (that’s duplicity), nor is he or she merely pretending (that’s hypocrisy). People with integrity are “whole” people; they can be identified by their single-mindedness. People with integrity have nothing to hide and nothing to fear. Their lives are open books. V. Gilbert Beer says, “A person of integrity is one who has established a system of values against which all of life if judged.”
Integrity is not what we do so much as who we are. And who we are, in turn, determines what we do. Our system of values is so much a part of us we cannot separate it from ourselves. It becomes the navigating system that guides us. It establishes priorities in our lives and judges what we will accept or reject.
We are all faced with conflicting desires. No one, no matter how “spiritual,” can avoid this battle. Integrity is the factor that determines which one will prevail. We struggle daily with situations that demand decisions between what we want to do and what we ought to do. Integrity establishes the ground rules for resolving these tensions. It determines who we are and how we will respond before the conflict even appears. Integrity welds what we say, think, and do into a whole person so that permission is never granted for one of those to be out of sync.
Integrity binds our person together and fosters a spirit of contentment within us. It will not allow our lips to violate our hearts. When integrity is the referee, we will be consistent; our beliefs will be mirrored by our conduct. There will be no discrepancy between what we appear to be and what our family knows we are, whether in times of prosperity or adversity. Integrity allows us to predetermine what we will be regardless of circumstances, persons involved, or the places of our testing.
Integrity is not only the referee between two desires. It is the pivotal point between a happy person and a divided spirit. It frees us to be whole persons no matter what comes our way.
“The first key to greatness,” Socrates reminds us, “is to be in reality what we appear to be.” Too often we try to be a “human doing” before we have become a “human being.” To earn trust a leader has to be authentic. For that to happen, one must come across as a good musical composition does-the words and the music must match.
by John C. Maxwell