Integrity-spoken of far too much and understood so little

Buzz words abound in discussing leadership and one that is always brought up is integrity. Most definitions revolve around the idea of doing the right thing, but little more is discussed about what that means. I would like to have a discussion and provide some examples to help increase understanding on this important, but little known topic.

Integrity really is doing the right thing and I always add that it is doing the right thing even when no one would see you doing it, as well as not expecting reward from doing so. One of the things that bugs me in life, particularly because I run into it on any day I am on campus at college, is seeing trash not being put in a trash bin. You go to the restroom, wash your hands, and then get a paper towel to dry your hands and rather than people throwing the paper towels in the trash can, you can always see there are pieces of paper left on the floor by the trash can, instead of inside it. I always use the paper towel I am drying my hands with and pick up the pieces that are laying outside of the trash can and throw them away with mine. I am not a janitor on campus, but it is the right thing to do, helps keep our campus looking great, and shows respect for those that are employed to empty the trash cans.

Now, we have to be careful about saying “do the right thing.” I believe most things in life are always relative, so a few pointers about integrity are necessary. We all believe in different things being “right.” We would say our political party is right or our religious beliefs are right, but they are right for us, not necessarily everyone else in the world. We need to look for things that are right in just about any plane of existence or belief we can think of because some Nazi’s certainly believed they were doing the right things in exterminating human beings, so our definition cannot simply mean doing the right thing, but tailored to be a broad spectrum “right” thing. In mentioning Nazi’s, I think of an example in Oskar Schindler that did the right thing in saving people from extermination at the risk of his own life and fortune as an example in extremely trying times.

Another example I found just today is an article in the Salt Lake Tribune criticizing Mitt Romney. I should mention ahead of time that I am not stating support for one candidate or the other, just using this as an example. The article praises the candidate for some of his past work and also questions his ability to tailor speeches to the audience of the speech that may counter other stated beliefs or views of his. The reason I thought the article is a good example of integrity is a newspaper article coming from a traditionally Republican state questioning a Republican candidate. If I could find an article criticizing the President from a traditionally Democratic state, such as California, it would have the same kind of impact for an example here, thus stating I am not supporting one candidate or another, just using the article as an example.

Integrity is doing the right thing, even when no one would see you doing the act, and not expecting a reward for doing so. It can be making a statement that may be unpopular with the masses, but needs to be stated; however, we must remember to check that the “right” thing is on a broad spectrum that is devoid of political or religious beliefs and right for a broad spectrum.

As always, looking for comments or opinions, and especially examples from others! I would love to hear what you think and your experiences with integrity and leadership.


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