I spent yesterday afternoon doing some research for a client on the idea of integrity. I was surprised by the articles and blogs on the topic - not because of sheer volume (though there were tons of them) - but because I found very few that defined the word. Yeah, I know, it shouldn't be necessary, but it is. We live and work in a world where the usual "synonyms" for integrity (i.e. honesty, morality, ethics) have diverse definitions themselves. Our world has shifted from one that is "black and white" to one that is "full of gray" - leaving behind the common understanding of integrity that was once prevalent in our society. I did find one definition I think makes sense. Michael Jensen, a professor at Harvard Business School, defines integrity as "what it takes for a person to be whole and complete" and continues "an individual is whole and complete when their word is whole and complete, and their word is whole and complete when they honour their word." Sounds pretty serious, right? But it's really a very simple concept. We have integrity if we say what we mean, mean what we say, and act accordingly.
While the concept is simple, the practice is not. How many times have you wondered whether your co-worker is really telling you how she feels about the topic you are discussing? How many times have you wondered whether your spouse really means what he just said? How many times have you discovered a person's actions don't match his rhetoric? Lack of integrity does significant damage. Not only do the people around us suffer when we don't honour our word, but, by pure definition, we are incomplete, fragmented, divided when we don't say what we mean, don't mean what we say, or act inconsistently with what we say.
If we are going to be leaders in our homes, our workplaces, our communities, or any other setting, we must be people of integrity. Take a few minutes today to ask yourself:
1. Do I say what I mean?
2. Do I mean what I say?
3. Do I act in a manner that is consistent with what I mean and say?
The exercise may hurt a bit, but it will be worth it. Becky