Living with Integrity

26 Dec 2011

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 Living with integrity is something to perfect in

As a personal and business performance coach, I run workshops on ‘Goals, Values and Beliefs’. I had always added integrity as a possible personal and organisational value during  value elicitation exercise  until recently when a learned colleague of mine challenged me and sent me an article titled ‘Integrity is not a Value’ by David Cohen.

This got me thinking, and since then I have researched extensively into what integrity is.  I now do agree with Cohen that integrity is not a value nor a practice but a principle.

Principles are timeless and universal laws that govern human conduct.  Integrity shares the stand with other universal principles of truth, fair play and honesty. According to Stephen Covey in his book, ‘The 8th Habit’, “Consequences are governed by principles, and behaviour governed by values.”

Values are never right or wrong; they are personal and subjective. It’s up to an individual to choose those things which are important to him/her and so their choices cannot be judged by another person’s rules. So success can be important to me, while fun can be more important to you; to one person security could be a core value, to another adventure could be a driving force in their life.

Practice refers to a specific action or activity, and a practice that works in one circumstance might not work in another. For example, two people who want to lose weight might have to adopt two different diet and exercise regimes because of their personal circumstance, to achieve the same result.

Can you believe that Integrity was one of the core values of Enron! (Time and space would not let me dwell on the Enron scandal but please research into it) 

British Petroleum (BP) is another company that has made a mockery of this principle. BP says that it operates according to a code of conduct.  “...the Code is the "cornerstone" of BP's commitment to integrity and summarizes our standards for the way we behave.” 
What a great surprise then, when BP's Deepwater Horizon drilling rig exploded and burned on April 21, 2010, killing 11 workers and inflicting unprecedented environmental damage in Alaska. Fishermen were unable to fish for several months and the tourist industry virtually came to a standstill at the busiest time of the year because the sea and the sea side were polluted. 

Investigation into the disaster revealed that six days before the explosion, a manager had actually referred to the drilling rig as a ‘nightmare rig’.  The inquire discovered that  ‘ despite the risk concerns set forth by various BP managers, decisions were made that didn't put safety first-but instead recklessly allowed actions designed to save money and finish the job as quickly as possible, whatever else might go wrong’.

Actions taken by an organisation that has the audacity to put on their website, “We are committed to the safety and development of our people and the communities and societies in which we operate. We aim for no accidents, no harm to people, and no harm to the environment “

So what is Integrity- Covey puts it simply as “keeping promises made to self and/or others.” He says that integrity has two children- wisdom and the abundance mentality. When you obey your conscience, you acquire wisdom, and because integrity breeds inner security you cultivate the abundance mentality.

Organisations, nations and individuals act with integrity when they live up to their values. Therefore, living with integrity is living a principled life honouring your values.  When we live a life of integrity, our daily actions reflect our core values.

So as we prepare for 2012, I challenge you to include ‘living a life of integrity’ as one of your New Year resolutions. Your action plan will be to start to make small commitments to yourself and people in your circle of influence and try to keep these commitments! 

Gbonju is a UK based accredited professional Personal/ Business Performance Coach, trainer and International Speaker.  She qualifies through the Chartered Institute for Personnel Development (CIPD) and the Coaching Academy. For more information on how you or your organisation can benefit from her services, visit or email


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