Archives For integrity

Are we a society that no longer has heroes? Have we become so indifferent and cynical that men and women doing heroic things are seldom reported and hardly noticed, and consequently neither celebrated nor emulated? Are we now too sophisticated to become caught up in something so yesterday as a “hero,” while news coverage goes to thugs who shut down a campus speaker and perhaps even destroy property, all while behaving in ways that they themselves consider virtuous and courageous?

So, where did our heroes go?

Admittedly, it’s a stretch to find public officials nowadays in politics or academia whose actions would qualify as heroic. Our Hollywood celebrity culture provides an endless supply of shallow, egocentric, sparsely talented individuals who provide us not only with the fruits of their “craft,” but with their standard, spineless lecturing as their enlightened gift to the rest of us, the great unwashed.

The sporting world has become so soiled with cheating, pampered, self-absorbed athletes and coaches, and so driven by college and professional organizations that devalue longstanding virtues like loyalty and integrity, that past sports giants like Tom Landry, John Wooden, and Vince Lombardi would likely turn away in disgust. In addition, the corporate world has had its share of arrogant industry titans who have lied, bilked, and bullied their way to lifetime riches with astonishing collateral damage to their companies, customers, and stockholders.

There have been eighteen Medals of Honor awarded to American service members during the course of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and two more for service in Somalia. How many Americans have seen television or print media coverage of these men? How many Americans have seen the photos and heard the stories of all twenty? Or perhaps even two or three? Is this confirmation that we no longer have any heroes?

No, I don’t believe so.

Heroes are still among us. U.S. Airways pilot Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger landing his stricken airplane safely in the Hudson River is one of them. So are the 343 New York City firefighters who climbed up those smoky stairwells and perished on that hard, dark September 11th day at the World Trade Center. There was 75 firehouses in New York in which at least one member was killed. Were these not heroes? Or the three young American service members who prevented a terrorist attack on a Paris train?

Americans still pull their fellow citizens from rain-swollen rivers. Single moms hold jobs, raise kids, and sometimes even go back to school. Dads teach their children about faithfulness, kindness, and sacrifice. Cancer patients, both young and old, fight back against their disease, often against overwhelming odds, and still give much of themselves to their families, churches, and communities. They are heroes, all. We are still a nation that needs it heroes, even without the high profile, to provide us with examples to follow, to cause us to remember our past, to give us reason for hope and encouragement.

I am a proud former U.S. Marine who marvels at the story of Corporal Kyle Carpenter, USMC, one of the twenty Medal of Honor awardees referenced above. In Afghanistan in 2010, Corporal Carpenter moved toward an enemy grenade to shield his fellow Marines from the blast. Kyle suffered extensive facial and limb damage and underwent multiple surgeries, not to mention enduring enough physical pain to last multiple lifetimes. And I couldn’t possibly comprehend the mental agony he has also bravely endured. After a three-year hospitalization and a medical retirement, Kyle became a college student. He is a survivor, a fighter, and an inspiration. He is a Marine, by God, in the very best way. And he is a hero.

So, it’s a fact that all the heroes didn’t get up and leave. They’re still here. Just like always.

Look around and I’ll bet you can find one. And when you do, thank them for staying.

For more on Kyle and other Medal of Honor recipients, follow this link.

 

 

Is the term integrity something that is clear to you? Is it a complicated set of principles that can vary according to a particular moral consideration or a specific set of circumstances? Or is it simply doing the right thing because it is the right thing to do?

Think of integrity as the quality of having high moral principles, of being reliable and trustworthy. It does not mean that you are near perfection as a human being, but rather that you can be trusted with words and deeds. For you, if integrity means doing the right thing, even if nobody knows or notices, then you understand the concept. If you behave consistently and use your moral principles, reliability, and trustworthiness as your guiding lights, you can rightfully be described as a person of integrity.

For certain, it is a description that is earned, and one that should be prized. If you have it, guard and nurture it. If you don’t yet have it, pursue it zealously. It is well worth the change in behavior you will have to make to earn it.

Now think of the foundation of a company as its core values. Core values can be defined as those things which we believe are the most important aspects of who we are and how we treat others. Effective core values very often operate behind the scenes, much like a computer’s operating system, keeping everything functioning in a consistent, predictable manner. A leader’s core values come to be understood by an organization from that leader’s consistent behavior over time. Those core values are then inculcated into an organization based in large measure on the leader’s example. Hence, core values and integrity are inextricably linked; it is difficult to have one without the other.

So, if you consider yourself a leader with integrity, and you have made it a practice to communicate your organization’s core values to your employees, what benefits do you think would accrue to those same employees?

I would suggest the following:

• Empowerment. If a leader with integrity is a leader who can be trusted, it should generally follow that the leader places high levels of trust in employees. Being trusted can be empowering. Being empowered can lead to many other tangential benefits such as improvements in productivity, innovation, and morale.

• Frame of Reference. Employees who understand the organization’s core values, and who see the leader as a person of integrity, will have little difficulty in determining their correct course of action when presented with a moral or ethical dilemma. Employees thus have a reference point that will guide and inform them.

• Safety Shield. Employees who see that people with low integrity are smoked out and promptly separated from the company will find reassurance in working for a leader and an organization where doing the right thing is not only expected, but demanded.

Being an honorable, ethical leader is never without challenges, to be sure, but a leader without integrity is a pathway to ultimate oblivion.

All the leadership traits I write about in this series of posts are clearly identifiable in my main character, Conor Rafferty, in my novel That Deadly Space. Find it on Amazon by clicking here.


Follow the Leader
In my new business thriller Dare Not Blink, protagonist Dave Paige becomes involved in a brutal struggle with fellow executives over an attempted takeover of his firm. Paige is a solid, natural leader in his own right—not perfect by any means, but smart, sturdy, and dependable. He exhibits many traditional leadership characteristics, and he has achieved a degree of professional success that, at his age, few can claim.

His most apparent virtues could be described thusly:

  • Paige has integrity. He tries to do the right thing, and he uses his moral principles, his reliability, and his trustworthiness as guiding lights. He is ethical and fair-minded, and highly respected throughout his company.
  • Paige displays courage. He takes risks that others avoid. He constantly challenges the status quo. He speaks up when others dare not and thus is not afflicted with the cowardice of silence. He suffers neither bullies nor fools easily, and has little fear of confrontation.
  • Paige shows great discipline. He has exceptional focus. He has the ability to function under pressure. He can adapt to rapidly changing conditions (he is a former U.S. Marine—what would you expect?)
  • Paige is unselfish. He shares the credit. He accepts the ideas and input of others. He takes the time to teach. And he accepts responsibility for his employees’ shortcomings, as well as his own.
  • Paige demonstrates perseverance. He doesn’t give up, even when all seems lost. He stays in the fight despite the odds and naysayers, despite the abandonment of others, even despite the prospect of humiliating failure looming above him like a dark cloud.

As the storyline unfolds, Dave Paige becomes increasingly interesting as his character and leadership traits are openly revealed when he becomes embroiled in a bitter contest of wills. Can he rise to the challenge? Will his leadership win the day? Can he overcome and prevail against such heavy odds?

Well, I’m not going to tell you here. You’ll just have to find out for yourself. It will be more exciting that way, I assure you.

I will, however, tell you this: Paige occasionally jots notes and observations into a handwritten journal he calls Paige’s Laws of Business. It has some pithy and wise counsel, and we’ll discuss it in more detail at another time.

Are you sometimes confused by the meaning of the word integrity? Is it a complicated set of principles that can vary according to a particular moral consideration or a specific set of circumstances? Or is it simply doing the right thing because it is the right thing to do?

Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote that, “Character is higher than intellect.” What does integrity have to do with character? Can you have one without the other?

Think of integrity as the quality of having high moral principles, of being reliable and trustworthy. It does not mean you are nearing perfection as a human being, but rather that you can be trusted with words and deeds. Doing the right thing because it is the right thing to do? Of course. If you are described by others as a person of integrity, would it also follow that you have high character? Yes, absolutely.

Now think of groups of people who are presumed to have integrity. Judges, doctors, military officers, and ministers come to mind. True, we can point to examples in each of the preceding groups of dishonest, immoral, and perhaps even criminal behavior. As with any group—business, politics, sports, education, journalism, etc.—we don’t need to search far and wide to discover similar failings. Indeed, it is our human nature to err.

Next, think how hard it would be for our society to function if trust and honesty were the exception rather than the rule. Samuel Johnson noted that, “Integrity without knowledge is weak and useless, and knowledge without integrity is dangerous and dreadful.” As a group, our elected leaders are losing the confidence of the American populace precisely because we are becoming conditioned by their saying one thing and doing another, sometimes blatantly and defiantly.

Business leaders who shamelessly enrich themselves at the expense of their customers, stockholders, and employees reflect poorly on their firms and industries. Judges who take bribes and teachers who sexually abuse their students give us all pause, and disappoint us greatly.

Why? Because they failed to do the right thing.

It need not be any more complicated than that.

For you, if integrity means doing the right thing, even if nobody knows or notices, then you understand the concept. If you behave consistently and use moral principles, reliability, and trustworthiness as your guiding lights, you can rightfully be described as a person of integrity.

It is a description that is earned, and one that should be prized. If you have it, guard and nurture it. If you don’t yet have it, pursue it zealously. It’s certainly worth the change in behavior you will have to make to earn it.

Finally, my latest novel That Deadly Space deals with integrity and ethics in a very substantive (yet fictional) way, albeit in wartime. The novel’s main character, Conor Rafferty, struggles with his share of moral and ethical decisions. He does his best to be a leader whose integrity becomes his guiding light, and his example underscores the above comments. You can find the book here.