Your Integrity is All You Have

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One of the reasons I left my “dream” job, was because I found out that its leadership lacked integrity. When I resigned, many people were shocked and asked why I left such a well-paying job, why was I so concerned with my “so called principle and their lack of integrity”. They just could not understand, how I could walk away from the money and the perks, but I did because I had been brought up to “think straight and talk straight”. I know some of you will say I am being naïve that once you get to the higher echelons of the business world, those values do not exist. I agree and since I could not beat them, nor join them, I had to leave.

By definition, integrity means soundness, sincerity, truthfulness, coherence, honesty, of good moral character. If you’re running an organisation, dealing with clients, or leading a team, having integrity means following through to do what you say you’ll do—no matter if it’s hard, costly, or unpleasant.

In view of the above and continuing with my resignation story, I got into the organisation and all that had been promised became a mirage. Suddenly, management started to give complicated explanations for things that were crystal clear before I accepted the employment. The lack of integrity I saw displayed was a big shock, and I saw signs of it from the very first day I walked into the organisation.

Dianna Booher says that “when it comes to commitments, there are two kinds of people in the marketplace: Those who keep commitments as if their life depended on it—and those who break them as easily as crystal.”

Today’s people often twist the definition somewhat to mean “living true to myself” as in “Yes, I know I made that commitment or signed that contract, but I want something different now!”

Without integrity, your communication lacks substance. Without substance, your communication has no power. Without power, your communication has no influence. Without influence, you’re no longer a leader. Yes, you may have a title or position, but you cannot lead.

Dianna Booher, goes on to say that rationalizing a broken commitment is also common: “Nobody else shows up for those meetings anyway.” “They really expect you to cancel X if things change ….” “People will understand if I’m late. There’s traffic.” “This is costing more than I thought. I had some unexpected expenses come up.”

All this “free, easy, and common” discussion is not to dismiss the fact that keeping a commitment can be costly. As the owner of a company, I’ve delivered on contracts when I actually lost money—simply because a difficult client kept expanding the scope of a project and refused to agree to a price increase.

I know colleagues who’ve gone to extremes to arrive at a client site to deliver a keynote because they’d made a scheduling mistake and refused to disappoint a client by cancelling at the last minute.

Having integrity doesn’t mean that you’ll never ask to be released from an earlier commitment if the situation changes. But if you can’t cancel the obligation with your integrity intact, then consider the long-term impact on your reputation. Understand the impact on your relationships and career. Little kinks in the chain of credibility soon break your trustworthiness altogether and you lose the ability to influence on any level.

3 Reasons Influence Collapses When Integrity Lapses

Influence is the result of having others trust you – when people trust you, you wield a lot of influence. This is the kind of influence that Nelson Mandela had. People were willing to die for his beliefs because they trusted that what he said and agitated had integrity and good for the whole. If you lack integrity, you will lack influence.

Trust comes from communicating the truth—without deception, denial, exaggeration, waffling. Trust means what you say is what you do – from my story above, you can see that what you say and what you do is extremely important. It was so important to me that I was willing to walk away from my means of livelihood. My very first boss Dotun Sulaiman was known as a man who had a lot of integrity, everybody had faith in his words. People will ask “who said so”, and you say “Dotun”. They then wave you off, don’t worry it is done. If Dotun says he will do it, you can go to sleep. How many of us have this level of integrity and trust from everybody in an organisation? This is where and how we should all aspire to be.

Being known as a person of your word represents power – I was speaking to my client today and reminded him that I had not been paid for two months. He said, don’t worry, you know you have nothing to worry about, as long as I have agreed to pay you it is done. His words had power because from experience, I have always been paid and paid the right amount even from a verbal agreement when he says “I agree and I will pay”. I have also had clients I refuse to owe me, because even when they say they will pay and we have a contract, they find all kinds of reasons to stiff you of your money.

I cannot over-emphasise how important it is to have integrity at any level from the most junior to the most senior person. Your integrity is all you have it is bigger and better than riches.