My father had his act together.
Over the last few decades, various surveys and case studies have consistently identified honesty or integrity as the most desired characteristic in leaders. It makes sense: if people are going to follow someone, they want assurance that their leader can be trusted. They want to know that he will keep promises and follow through with commitments.
As I continue to spend this week looking back at the life of my father in his various roles of father, businessman, church leader, friend, and community leader, I have been reminded time and again that his actions matched up with his words: if he said it, it was as good as done.
My father was a product of a time and place (the Depression in the South) in which honestly was a common trait. It had to be for people to get along and survive. But I think it went beyond that: he knew and practiced the combination of ethics, morality, and integrity.
- Ethics refers to a standard of right and wrong
- Morality is a lived standard of right and wrong
- Integrity means to be sound, complete, and integrated
A person can have a high or low ethic; they can also be moral or immoral. Those are choices. But if you want to have integrity, you must choose your ethics and live to match them.
My father followed the high and holy ethics of the Scriptures. By living and working by those biblical standards, he made a commitment to a certain morality. His integrity demonstrated that his actions matched his words. There is no substitute for a man of consistent Christ-like character.
Integrity doesn’t demand perfection. Even the most ethical and moral committed person can blow it. Integrity doesn’t guarantee a perfect life, but it does require an integrated life. People with integrity have a moral center that integrates their behavior. When they violate that moral center, they recognize that violation as sin and treat it as an aberration. They confess it, make restitution, seek forgiveness, and reconfirm the standard.
Where do you find yourself on the integrity scale?
Integrity is something that is earned over time. It does not come automatically with the job or the title. It begins early in our lives and careers. People tend to assume initially that someone who has risen to a certain status in life, acquired degrees, or achieved significant goals is deserving of their confidence. But complete trust is granted (or not) only after people have had the chance to get to know more about the person. The integrity foundation is built brick by brick.
The integrity of leadership is what determines whether people will want to give a little more of their time, talent, energy, experience, intelligence, creativity, and support.
High integrity earns intense commitment from others. When people perceive their leaders to have high credibility, they are significantly more likely to:
- Be proud to tell others they are part of the organization
- Feel a strong sense of team spirit
- See their own personal values as consistent with those of the organization
- Feel attached and committed to the organization
- Have a sense of ownership for the organization
Wouldn’t you like to be the leader of an organization like that?
Get your act together.
reflections following my father’s death two years ago this week, and revisited now as my mother begins a major transition in her lifestyle