Harriet Tubman is the face of the 20 US dollar banknote.
Harriet was born a slave, adamant in her claims for better conditions for her fellow slaves. She was continuously beaten by her owners. The beating included a head injury that gave her headache for the rest of her life. Her back looked like a battlefield.
She escaped to the north and started helping other slaves to escape to Canada. During the American civil war, she headed an army expedition and after the war she was involved in the female suffrage movement. One can hardly find a better example of a person possessing high integrity.
There is a dearth of integrity in the world. Corruption, poverty, conflicts and environmental degradation are mostly results of decisions made by people with little integrity. The same regards bad work environments causing stress and ill-health. People with authority, too often, do not act as the leaders and role models they are supposed to be. We cannot wait for “they” to change. We have to do it ourselves.
Integrity implies that you live by your values and convictions. Just look at Harriet. If you have integrity you stand out as consistent and trustworthy. Integrity is part of being mature.
A person with integrity walks the talk. If transparency is important to you, then you are the one who always share information with others, and ask for open feedback on any suggestion you make.
You are concerned with the wellbeing of others, and stand up for justice and fairness. Such as seeing a co-worker being treated unfairly and speak up for him even though it might back–fire.
Some Bad Examples:
Some examples I have experienced myself on what integrity is NOT:
- A chairwoman of a charity who during her sickness stayed at the charity’s premises at its expense. And she was attended 24/7 by the staff, who had not been paid for months.
- A manager who claimed to take a firm stand on corruption, but used an office car for his private, extended travels.
- Or another manager who did not take a stand on anything; neither expressed any true passion nor interest in our work. His only concern was to kiss up and please more senior managers.
A Good Example:
You do not have be Harriet Tubman or Nelson Mandela to exhibit integrity.
At an office where I worked, we had a national staff with an assistant title, though everyone knew she was actually in charge of the program.
She was pressured from acquaintances and outsiders to hand out allowances or to do them other illicit favours. But despite the lack of internal support, she stood firm. And she has done so, year after year, without being promoted or given a better title. In a country permeated by corruption, at all levels and in all sectors.
That is also what integrity is about: doing the right thing even if there is no reward in sight.
The Benefits Of Integrity
The greatest benefit of living a life with integrity is the trust you gain from other people.
People do not work well and businesses and organizations do not work well in an environment permeated by distrust.
Why would you not trust other people? Because you think they are dishonest, that some hidden agenda drives them, or that they will let you down if they believe it is to their benefit. In other words, you do not trust people with an obvious dearth of integrity.
On the other hand, if you have integrity people will trust you, they will want to work with you, be more inclined to give you the support or information you need; and you stand a much better chance of achieving good results. Together.
Integrity is very much dependent and what we do on a daily basis.
It has got just as much to do with what we don´t do.
For instance, the time I did not address the head of office when he was repeatedly lambasting a junior staff. It is still on my list of things to be ashamed of.
Exercising integrity can also be tricky. Sometimes there is no “right way”. You can only do what you think is best at the moment and learn from it.
The Tricky Side of Integrity
Once I declined to give a cleaner a farewell bonus (she had done an excellent job).
To me it is wrong to make people dependent on or expecting tips. It contributes to keep salaries low and disempower low-paid workers, left to hope for some arbitrary hand-outs.
In another country, I gave the cleaner a nice farewell gift. To see the joy on his face for this, to me, small donation made me embarrassed for being so frugal previously.
Still I am convinced that ubiquitous tipping is counterproductive when it comes to improving the lives of the poor. However, giving somebody a farewell gift would not have conflicted with that.