Integrity Is Primary

Gas-situation stories are abundant in the media. Reports claim President Bush is pushing to do something about the price surge while warning motorists to prepare to dig deep into our pockets all summer long. Meanwhile, an Associated Press story claims the country’s three largest oil and gas companies will report combined first-quarter profits in excess of $16 billion, a 19 percent increase from last year. The question of integrity in the industry is again in the spotlight.
But the concern over integrity in business, politics and individual lives is nothing new. It was with us big time in 2005. I don’t know if you saw the report or not, but the word most researched on the Merriam-Webster web site this past year was “integrity.” The story coming from the company began with, “In a year filled with political wrangling, natural disasters and pop culture curiosities, Americans turned to Merriam-Webster to help define it all.”
Also in 2005, Fast Company magazine received 1,665 responses to a survey regarding the importance of ethics in leadership. The subsequent article, Integrity Matters, reported 95% of the respondents said ethics play a meaningful role in the way business gets done. Many said good ethics is good business. They claimed integrity builds brands, draws customers, keeps customers and saves money in the long run.
The Merriam-Webster online dictionary defined “integrity” as “firm adherence to a code, especially moral or artistic values; incorruptibility.” The Oxford Illustrated Dictionary I keep at my desk defines “integrity” as “moral uprightness; honesty; wholeness; soundness.”
In a recent column I told of an administrator who said five core values are emphasized in his organization: (1) skill, integrity and compassion; (2) the accessibility of services to clients; (3) the effectiveness of program and staff; (4) the responsiveness to clients’ needs and (5) the inclusion of clients in service development, delivery and evaluation. He said these values are the basis for everything that happens in the organization. I concluded the column with: The big question for you as a reader is double fold: “Does your organization have a core values system in place and do you understand and actively implement it?”
I was listening to a radio interview with a college football coach yesterday and he said when successful NFL teams contact college coaches to inquire about prospects they ask at length about players’ integrity. He said the unsuccessful teams ask only about physical skills, speed and strength. I have read articles and heard reports about how some professional teams claim if they can acquire players with the right physical skills they can instill character. Very seldom have I seen such claims materialize.
The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy states, “Integrity is often thought of as moral uprightness and steadfastness – making the ‘good’ choices, doing the ‘right thing.’ In fact, it is far more than that. It is a home, an anchor, a created and continuing commitment – a way of being and acting that shapes who you are.”
So what is the point of this column? In business, sports, politics or relationships in general, before hiring or teaming with someone, it is wise to know as much about the person’s ethics or integrity as it is about his or her education and skills. For people already in our organization or relationship, we have a responsibility to help build on and improve the integrity they already possess as we pay attention to our own. As we consider bringing someone into an organization or relationship, we have a responsibility to put first things first in determining the correct requirements.
Carl Mays, author of over a dozen books and speaker at over 3,000 events, can be contacted at 865-436-7478 or His books, including A Strategy For Winning, People of Passion, Anatomy Of A Leader, Are We Communicating Yet? and Winning Thoughts, are available in stores, on and

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