Is Integrity Dead in America?

3 Ethical Elements to Consider Before Answering the Integrity Question

With ethical lapses in every nook and cranny of society occurring just about every other second these days…it’s a fair question.
Is Integrity Dead in America?

From politicians that shamelessly lie (but keep getting elected) to careless business leaders who bankrupt their own companies (but still walk away with their millions), from sports heroes who display morals and values fit for a sociopath (but still keep their fans) to welfare cheats who rip-off the system (but are never punished), the very concept of integrity seems to be at odds with today’s “modern” society.

So, with seemingly EVERYONE lying, cheating and stealing…is integrity dead?

If you’re in any sort of leadership position – and want to remain there for any length of time – the answer is a resounding “NO!”

Harvey MacKay, business guru and author of 5 best-selling books (including Swim with the Sharks) is famous for saying:

“If you have integrity, nothing else matters.  If you don’t have integrity, nothing else matters.”

Just stop for a second and let that sink in…

Integrity, according to the first definition in the dictionary, is “the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles.”

It’s routinely the most important value listed by clients, customers, suppliers, supervisors, and team members when surveyed.  People want to associate with, and do business with people they know, like and trust…with the starting point being trust.  Integrity is essential for developing trust, and it remains the single most important building block of enduring success.

In fact, with so many people prone to serious ethical lapses these days, embracing integrity at every level can actually give your goals or venture a competitive advantage.  Is it always easy?  Absolutely not…but it’s definitely doable!

3 Key Elements on Integrity

Here are 3 important elements to consider when examining how you’re showing up around integrity:

  • Internal Integrity: Often defined as “doing the right thing even when no one is looking”, internal integrity is critical since you must first trust yourself before you can get others to trust you.  It can also be the toughest to achieve, since sometimes the person whom we are least honest with is ourselves!
  • External Integrity: This is all about “walking the talk.”  Do you follow through, meet your commitments and bring things in on time and budget?  One of the biggest killers of external integrity is people who say one thing and do another.  Most leaders and businesses can survive a bad economy, but poor external integrity will quickly sink a business (and it’s leader) in any economy!
  • Integrated or Whole Integrity: It’s not enough to have either internal or external integrity…they must be combined.  Stop for a moment and think about how many famous people you’ve heard of that lived seemingly exemplary lives with external integrity, but lived a secret personal life devoid of internal integrity and vice versa. Combining the two is where the real magic happens.

Is it always easy, and will you succeed 100% of the time? No one does…but it’s important to routinely reflect, recognize when you’re out of integrity, and then take ownership and responsibility to make course corrections.

I’ll leave you with one final thought, a West Point Maxim: “Choose the harder right over the easier wrong.”