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What Does Integrity Look Like?

September 24, 2010

What Does Integrity Look Like?

Integrity: “Adherence to moral and ethical principles; soundness of moral character” is how Dictionary.com defines it. Stephen M.R. Covey in The Speed of Trust points out that integrity is more than honesty. He explains, “a person has integrity when there is no gap between intent and behavior . . . when he or she is whole, seamless, the same – inside and out.” He calls it “congruence.”

It’s walking the talk. Modeling the behaviors you expect of others. Leaving accurate impressions. Doing the right thing, even when it’s tough. Conveying genuine motives and not having hidden agendas.

Frequently our attention is called to people who lack integrity or have significant integrity lapses. Sometimes there may be real issues and at other times it’s the impression created by the media, opponents, people with an agenda or those who are motived to discredit. Who lacks integrity and who is creating false or misleading impressions is often unclear. The result is suspicion of both sides.

Everyday there seems to be something we hear that is disconcerting about various people in the public eye or in positions of responsibility, whether is it the recent cases of professional sports players, media personalities, politicians, business and labor leaders, special interest groups, and others.

So what is integrity? Integrity has several dimensions. It’s more than the absence of dishonest behavior and wrong doing. It is also being true to yourself, behaving in congruence with your values, and presenting yourself authentically to others.

So what does it look like?

You see it when people . . .

  • are accountable and take genuine responsibility for their actions
  • stand on principle even in tough circumstances
  • discuss problems and solutions as objectively as possible and in a way that accounts for all the relevant information, not just data that supports their predisposition
  • own up to mistakes and make sincere amends with those adversely affected without making excuses
  • do not cut honesty corners or make excuses for the sake of avoiding responsibility, consequences, embarrassment or humiliation
  • do the right thing even when it’s personally disadvantageous
  • follow through on their promises and commitments.

Integrity is demonstrated in many ways and sometimes we see it or question it in others only in retrospect. I believe, however, that we are usually keenly aware when we are compromising our own integrity at the moment it is happening. This means we have the choice and power to maintain our integrity when we are tempted to stray from it.

What does your integrity look like? How can you be more congruent? What do you do that erodes your integrity or how others perceive you? And what can you do to restore it?

We all can improve and we all can become more congruent.

Steve Weitzenkorn

Steve Weitzenkorn, Ph.D., is a learning innovator, organizational advisor, experienced facilitator, and lead author of Find-Fulfill-Flourish: Discover Your Purpose with LifePath GPS – a book, tool kit, and workshop series focused on guiding people toward more meaningful and fulfilling lives.

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