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Whoever walks in integrity walks securely, but whoever takes crooked paths will be found out. (Proverbs 10:9, NIV).
Truth be told, the opening proverb sounds like something that a wise grandmother would caution her baby chicks as they head out the door to take an exam or to turn in an assignment. I know because I have heard it myself while growing up. But, imagine that you are the hope of your family as they have invested everything to send you away to college. You had a difficult time adjusting. So, your friend offers to help you during the test. However, you are spotted by the invigilator. Do you stop, admit the guilt or continue? If you were the invigilator, like I was, would you report this incident or risk your reputation as the entire class witnessed the cheating?
More than 70,000 surveys completed by students at over 24 high school students in America, demonstrated that “64 percent of students admitted to cheating on a test, 58 percent admitted to plagiarism and 95 percent said they participated in some form of cheating, whether it was on a test, plagiarism or copying homework (McCabe, 2017). As they moved up to colleges and universities, the pattern continued with as much as 68% of undergraduates and 43% of graduate students admitting to cheating on a written assignment or on a test (https://academicintegrity.org/statistics/).
These confessed cheaters will be the leaders of tomorrow! Are you concerned?
Rex Tillerson was when he observed as the former Exxon Mobil executive and the former US Secretary of State, that “In the business world, we can point to instances when a lack of integrity has bankrupted entire companies – in sectors as different as finance, telecommunications, manufacturing, and energy.”
Integrity is “the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles that you refuse to change” (https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/integrity). Leadership expert, Stephen Covey, said, “Moral authority comes from following universal and timeless principles like honesty, integrity, treating people with respect.” So, it is a conscious action fueled by even higher standards of morality.
Even if one has skirted the issue of integrity their whole lives, it is an issue that must be resolved as one approaches death according the developmental psychologist Erik Erikson. This is clearly demonstrated in the Hallmark movie, “Out of the Woods.” What requires more courage? A man facing a board room full of angry directors or a man walking to his death alone in the forest? In this movie, a man approaching death decides to pursue one last dream – a home in the country where he can walk freely in the woods surrounding his home. He makes friends with the local people, and discovers his purpose to restore their sacred land to them. Through his actions, he reunites with his grandson, finds peace in himself, and leaves a legacy for his family (“Out of the Woods”, 2017; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uCeq3C1X_N8).
Integrity has long been accepted as an essential character trait in leaders. Why? Because they have to be trustworthy, worthy of respect, honourable, decent, upright, and just simply good.
In today’s world, each of us must guard against the consuming lure of success can drive a man or a woman to commit atrocities that undermine any semblance of integrity that they may have possessed.
Integrity is not a quality that emerges on its own. It must be deliberately chosen by the one who longs for a different and better outcome. For example, teen star, Kirk Cameron, made the decision to preserve his integrity. He said, “For me, my family and my faith have been what’s really been my anchor, and grounding me, and helping me navigate through a lot of the things that really destroy marriages in Hollywood, and in your own personal integrity” (Kirk Cameron; https://www.brainyquote.com/topics/integrity).
Reggae star, and Bob Marley’s son, Stephen Marley, said, “Reggae music is a music of integrity; reggae’s consciousness was built on a message. My music speaks of love, equality and spirituality, and I would hope that one finds this integrity in my music.” You have to admit that it is pretty difficult to sing passionately about a message that you do not believe. It is also difficult to speak of what you do not believe.
Oscar winner for her debut role in “12 Years a Slave,” Lupita Nyong’o, agrees as she confessed to interviewers, “I do my best work when I feel conviction to say something through the character I play. Always I want to have integrity and not compromise that.”
Integrity is much more than what we see on screen or on stage. Integrity is what you do everyday as you face your team as a leader. How do you address one team member who disrespects another, or cheats another? How do you reward your team members for supporting the team’s victory?
Your unwavering commitment to moral principles is required to restore equilibrium to your team! As your team watches you, they will grow to trust you and connect deeply with you and your customers as you walk in integrity.
So, as we journey through February and consider a few essential qualities of a leader, remember that integrity allows you to set standards and supplies the fuel that you need to accomplish them. Check out some of the sage advice shared from generations of wisdom in Dear Little Sister and Dear Little Brother at http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/KeishaAMitchellPhD and https://youtu.be/zfPWaPCJ0vE .
Photo courtesy of Rawpixel on Unsplash.