Integrity is the totality of your belief system in play. It is not to be confused with selective virtue or situational integrity.
Over the years I have asked hundreds of executives if they have integrity, and more often than not they’ll say yes without question. Yet, if you were to poll the planet and ask, “What’s one of the things that is missing in the business world today,” integrity is generally the first word you’ll hear. So many people proclaim they have integrity, but few people are on the receiving end of it – hmm! It’s a word that is thrown out rather loosely because the meaning of integrity is often established by each individual and held to standards based on past experiences, feelings or circumstances and not a defined set of principles, so integrity is invented, subjective and arbitrary.
As for the true meaning, its root in Latin, “Integritas,” means the integration of our total belief system working in congruency and perpetuity. This means that we achieve every aspect of whatever belief system defines our character and our personal brand at all times, every time and never fail. I don’t know about you, but something tells me I will be out of alignment with integrity before the week is over, but more realistically, before the day or hour is done.
So, here’s the rub – nobody owns integrity. It’s not something you can possess or even claim you have. Integrity is an ongoing practice that knows no end, only new beginnings. The moment we think we own integrity is the moment we begin to relax in our commitment to practice it. Think about it. Why would I need to practice that which I already have or own? “I’m an integrous person,” one might say. Integrous by the way, is not a word and for good reason. But the idea that we own integrity is like saying we own patience, love or self-control. We can’t own them, as it’s our ongoing practice of these things that makes them come to life, every part of life, so we can be a strong witness to God’s way of doing things.
Several years ago, I was working with a vendor on a project and I got a call from them just before the deadline, which was 2 days before my presentation time. The programmer told me the project was not going to be completed as he had another project come up. I had to call my client and let them know that the project was going to be delayed; not a fun experience for me… ever. When I confronted my programmer on the breakdown, he got upset and told me I was questioning his integrity. I said, “You’re right, I am. You made a judgment call to put work that suited your situation in front of mine without even having the professional courtesy to call me and let me know that my job would be delayed. That would have given me plenty of time to get another programmer to fill the gap and I could’ve made my presentation on time. Not only are your out of integrity, it has caused me to be there as well”. I went on to share that he was confusing ownership of integrity with selective virtue or situational integrity. I shared with him that I know that these things happen, but he would have been able to keep the momentum of his integrity had he just called and gave me plenty of time to field it to another programmer. We cleared things up and have a better working relationship because of it today.
Everyone has his or her own belief system. As for us believers, the primary one happens to be the Bible, so it’s always good to personalize it by identifying in detail what Biblically-based integrity looks like. A better way is to look at each day: consider the people, conversations and the meetings you will have and meditate on what Godly integrity would look like if it were infused into each of those situations specifically. I’ve always believed when you decide in advance of a thing it will always advance that thing, and defining our character in advance of things is the stuff great days are made of.
Dean is Principal and Chief Creative Officer at Breviti – an award winning business branding agency in Laguna Niguel, CA, (breviti.com) and is a partner at VeracityColab, a video marketing agency in Aliso Viejo, CA. (veracitycolab.com) He is also an author on the topics of personal and business branding and speaks at companies and event venues to help improve individual and corporate performance. You can learn more at deandelsesto.com.