Warren Buffet, who is the Chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, stated ” In looking for people to hire, look for three qualities: integrity, intelligence, and energy. And if they don’t have the first one, the other two will kill you” (Anderson 2012). Indeed, integrity is that special virtue of one’s character that makes a person trustworthy to others. Integrity is the very foundation of principles and values that form the core of a person. Integrity means adherence to moral and ethical principles and the path of honesty. Integrity is extremely valuable and has become a rarity in the present world of moral degradation when people in order to beat the competitors and get success in life are willing to make any sort of compromises or embrace dishonest means to go ahead. For example, it is not uncommon for the job applicants to exaggerate their profiles in their resume or job interviews (Anderson 2012). In the job market of cut-throat competition, exaggeration or fabrication of one’s credentials and potentials in order to catch the notice of the employers is the preferred option for many job seekers. There are many good examples of such people who furnish phony salaries and forged documents related to their academic achievements or job certificates to end up in good positions. For instance, George O’Leary, the former football coach of the University of Notre Dame, was forced to resign within 5 days of being on the job on account of falsified presentation of his academic achievements and athletic background (Fountain 2001). Sandra Baldwin, the first woman president and chairman of the United States Olympic Committee, had to resign in 2002 when it became public that she never earned the doctoral degree she falsely claimed on her resume (Litsky 2002). There are several others who walked the same line to acquire lucrative job opportunities. However, the end result of such dishonesty comes at a heavy price, and that is the irreparable loss of reputation and trust. The momentary gains earned by George O’Leary and Sandra Baldwin through an act of dishonesty have put their characters eternally stamped by question marks as they would always be regarded by others as people who lack integrity. This paper would discuss integrity in detail, highlighting its importance and the reasons why I need integrity in my life.
The word ‘integrity’ has derived from the Latin adjective integer meaning whole and complete. Taking the meaning of integer into account, we may fairly say that the term integrity refers to the inner feeling of ‘wholeness’ that comes out of qualities like honesty, truthfulness and consistency of character. Integrity has been defined by Barbara Killinger as ” personal choice, an uncompromising and predictably consistent commitment to honour moral, ethical, spiritual and artistic values and principles” (12). According to Barbara Killinger, the feeling of wholeness comes from our actions that are consistent with our words. She asserts that there is no integrity if one says one thing and does another. In order to have integrity, the spoken as well as written words of ours should be consistent with the choice of our subsequent behavior and actions. Integrity is something the acquisition of which needs strong characteristic resolve, self-discipline and indomitable will power to resist the temptation in terms of desire, deception or self-serving expediency (Killinger 2010). The soul needs the nourishment of integrity as body needs oxygen for survival. However, strangely enough, we are not born with integrity. It is during childhood that the values and moral integrity take root in our character, depending on our upbringing and the environment. How the personal integrity, shaped and formed during childhood, is maintained afterwards once we step into adulthood depends ” on the strength of our values and the moral choices” made by us (Killinger 2010).
Importance of Integrity
Integrity means doing the right thing always in all kinds of circumstances (Anderson 2012). It takes years to build a reputation of integrity, build trust among people while it takes only a few seconds to lose that trust and fall from the grace of peers and family. Integrity is an important element in our life. Without integrity, we would be living a life of shadow that might vanish into thin air at any time. Below are discussed three essential characteristics of integrity and their importance in our life:
Three essential characteristics of integrity include honesty, truthfulness and character. Honesty is a very important element that affects every aspect of life starting from our work life to friends and family. The honesty of people we live and interact with influences our actions and thoughts. If we intend to build a reputation of integrity, it is important that we associate ourselves with honest people because the company we keep around ourselves influences us to a great degree. If we let ourselves be in the company of dishonest friends trying to cut corners to go ahead, then it is likely that we would first find ourselves enduring their behavior, then accepting that as a norm and finally adopting that behavior (Anderson 2012). If we adopt the path of dishonesty for quick and momentary gains, then it is likely that we would encounter the day of reckoning some day because an act of dishonesty may get exposed sooner or later, bringing dreadful consequences for us. For example, lately a lot of corporate scandals have come to our notice. All these big scandals have taken place due to the dishonest means adopted by a handful of people for momentary gains.
Take the example of Enron scandal that is one of the biggest financial scandals in the history of USA. Enron Corp. was established in 1985 following a deal that merged two natural gas pipeline companies – InterNorth based in Omaha and Houston Natural Gas based in Texas. Kenneth Lay, who was the CEO of the company, initially sold gas energy at market prices, but after the legislation related to deregulation on the sale of natural gas was approved by the US Congress, Enron started selling energy at higher prices (Powers 2002). The next CEO Jeffrey Skilling developed a team of executives who used the loopholes in accounting practices and poor financial reporting. This way the company was able to hide debt equivalent to billions of dollars from its failed projects. They also muscled the financial auditor Arthur Anderson to play along with its fraudulent accounting practices. However, the fraudulence got exposed in 2002 when the company’s shareholders filed a lawsuit to Securities and Exchange Commission (Powers 2002). Integrity that is always structured at the top level of the organization was heavily compromised by the whole top management of Enron. As a result, all the top executives involved with the scandal faced a long duration of imprisonment. They not only ruined the reputation of the organization they worked for, but they also ruined their own career and reputation.
Truthfulness is another characteristic of integrity. Though truthfulness and honesty are similar in definitions, the only point that makes them different is that truthfulness is reinforced by an identifiable documentation (AuBuchon 2003). In order to maintain the integrity, one should always be truthful about the information he shares with others. If a person withholds information, then the decisions that will be made on the basis of that incomplete information might affect family security, job security or an individual personally. For instance, the HR of a company might not disclose the full information related to the job contracts to an employee. As a result, the employee might join the company knowing only half of the information shared with him, and after joining, he might come to know a host of other hidden clauses and bonds that might affect his future if he tries to leave the organization. This is why no organization or a group of people should withhold information from people who are likely to be affected by the decisions they need to make on the basis of that information (AuBuchon 2003).
Character is another important element of integrity. It is a character that distinguishes one person from another. The character of a person can be judged on the basis of his own personal abilities, traits, attributes, moral and ethical values. People form the impression about the character of someone through his actions and reaction to different situations (AuBuchon 2003). It is through the actions and behavior that the inner integrity of a person comes out. Character can be both good and bad. One might have an opinion about oneself but whether or not he has a good or bad character is determined by others, based on his actions. If someone shows a bad character, then people do not wish to associate themselves with him or his family.
Character does not only involve a person, it also involves an organization. Like people, an organization too can have bad or good character, depending upon the ethical principles it follows. The success of an organization, thus, depends on the character it projects to common people and how far its activities are influenced by the element of honesty. The public perception of the organization is affected by the decisions it makes concerning a business deal or its employees (AuBuchon 2003). If a company takes an action that affects the employees in a negative way, then the company will lose credibility in the eyes of the public. Furthermore, the reputation of the company also depends upon the employees working for it. If the employees are hardworking and honest, then the company earns a reputation of good character within no time, but similarly a dishonest workforce may impact the reputation and future an organization massively. The scandals of Enron, WorldCom, Peregrine Systems, Adelphia and Tyco International are big examples of that.
Why I need Integrity?
I view integrity as being honest and truthful to myself and others. Every effort and decision taken by me would appreciate my beliefs in the ‘ right’. I need integrity in my life because integrity will help me earn respect and trust from people. If I maintain integrity in both personal as well as professional relationships, people around me will develop trust in me. The trust developed by the people around me would enable them to entrust higher level of responsibilities on me, which would be beneficial for my future growth. If I stand up to what is right, people around me might not always agree with what I do but they would develop a feeling of respect for me. I know that following the path of integrity is not an easy task as it takes courage and determination to stick up for the right thing. It might happen that taking a stance for the right thing might put me at the risk of alienating myself from friends and family, but being a person of integrity, I need to uphold my moral and ethical values by following the right path and taking the right decision.
In a world where people have become obsessed with self-interest and self-gratification, if we all become engaged in fulfilling our own selfish interests, the world will not remain a livable place. Being a part of the young generation, it is my duty to incorporate integrity and moral ethics in my character so that I can develop the requisite characteristics in me to stand up against the wrong. I should practice integrity for developing myself in the character so that I can inspire others. If my actions follow the words I have uttered, then I would project myself as an authentic, genuine person, and people around me would be able to trust my character. Following the righteous path of integrity might not give me quick momentary gains, but it will help me build a relationship of trust with people. If I compromise with my values and principles for the sake of earning a transitory period of success, then I would always be haunted by the feeling of uncertainty as to what might happen if my little act of dishonesty gets exposed. Integrity might not help me earn an overnight success, but it will help me develop the feeling of contentment with my own self.
Integrity that means adherence to moral and ethical principles and the path of honesty is the very foundation of principles and values that form the core of a person. Derived from the Latin adjective ‘integer’ meaning wholeness, the word integrity refers to the inner feeling of ‘wholeness’ that comes out of qualities like honesty, truthfulness and consistency of character. Integrity is not something easily achievable. It takes courage and strong mental resolution to stick to one’s principles and values in all the circumstances. The three essential characteristics of integrity include honesty, truthfulness and character. Honesty is that very important element that touches every aspect of our life. If we follow the path of dishonesty for momentary gains, then we need to prepare ourselves for facing the day of reckoning as dishonesty sooner or later gets exposed. Truthfulness is another characteristic of integrity that requires a person to be truthful in his account of information. Truthfulness will help others make a well-informed decision. Character is the very foundation of our personality that helps people’s perception about us. The character of a person, as well as an organization, may be both good and bad. The popularity and success of a person and organization depend upon how their actions are being determined by others. I need integrity in my life because it would help me earn respect and trust from people. Also, by following the right thing always, I would achieve an inner sense of satisfaction that no amount of momentary success through dishonest means can ever give me. Success might come and go, but integrity will stay with me forever.
Anderson, Amy Rees. Success Will Come and Go, But Integrity is Forever. Forbes. 28 Nov 2012. Web. 3 Mar 2014.
Litsky, Frank. U. S. Olympic Chief Quits Over Her Lies On College Degrees. The New York Times. 25 May 2002. Web. 3 Mar 2014.
Fountain, John W. Notre Dame Coach Resigns After 5 Days and a Few Lies. The New York Times. 15 Dec 2001. Web. 3 Mar 2014.
Killinger, Barbara. Integrity: Doing the Right Thing for the Right Reason. McGill-Queen’s Press. 2010. Print.
AuBuchon, Dennis. Integrity: Do You Have It. iUniverse Inc. 2003. Print.
Powers, William Jr. Report of Investigation by the Special Investigative Committee of the Board of Directors of Enron Corp. 1 Feb 2002. Web. 3 Mar 2014.