Magazine Contents | January- February 2013

The Power Of Integrity

How To Ascend With Honour and Descend With Dignity

By Moses A. Mawa

In the years I have spent providing business services, I have realized that some contracts I have signed with certain individuals were not worth the paper on which the contracts were signed, as the people lacked the virtue of integrity. However, I do recognize that certain circumstances might affect our ability to deliver on our commitments. In leadership, it is imperative that you exercise honesty in speech and actions. This comes down to having integrity, which is the pinnacle of character.

For a leader, standing tall on sound moral and ethical principles is essential. According to Dee Hock, the Founder of Visa, you need to spend most of your time building your character and, “Invest at least 20% leading those with authority over you and 15% leading your peers.” If what you say cannot be trusted, it is impossible to influence leaders, and if what you do cannot be dependable, it is not possible to direct the people who are supposed to follow you.

In an effort to pull ahead of others, many in society attempt to apply moral relativism in matters of authenticity. When engaging people in the pursuit of common goals, careful consideration of what is right or wrong is important. Leaders who do the right thing are followed and leaders who say or do the wrong thing to deceive people may be followed, but only for a while.

Oprah Winfrey, the first African American woman to become a billionaire by building her own media empire once said, “Real integrity is doing the right thing, knowing that nobody’s going to know whether you did it or not.” The achievements of leaders that stand the test of time are those that are built with a solid commitment to smart and timely dispensation of what is truthful.

Many leaders fail because they twist what is right to suit their selfish ambitions and to win accolades, not knowing that the honest pursuit of what is right for altruistic objectives generate lasting heroism. Deceptive leaders engage in duplicity, which puts the future of their organizations in jeopardy and leads them to disrepute.

General Norman Schwarzkopf, who commanded coalition forces in the 1991 Gulf War and became one of the most celebrated military generals said, “Leadership is a potent combination of strategy and character. But if you must be without one, be without the strategy.” The man whom President Barrack Obama called an “American Original”, was right, as character, of which integrity is central, can derail even a master strategist.

Where there is lack of integrity in political, business or even spiritual leadership, there lays the truth, but hidden under the rabble of deception. The spectacular fall of General David Petraeus from grace, due to an extramarital affair that came to light, shows how stellar record can be wiped out as a result of flawed character. The man who led US Troops in Iraq with distinction had to leave his highly regarded post as CIA Director in absolute infamy.

Dr. Wayne W. Dyer, one of the most dynamic inspirational speakers and self-help experts said, “Before speaking, consult your inner-truth barometer, and resist the temptation to tell people only what they want to hear.” A leader who values integrity must not only go against the current, but reverse the current and take virtually every one along. We do not have bad leaders because of bad people around them. We have bad leaders because they lack integrity.

US President Abraham Lincoln once said, “Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.” This was echoed by 21st century leadership guru Kenneth Blanchard when he said, “The key to successful leadership today is influence, not authority.” In your effort to be successful in business or politics, how do you plan to act or behave when you have money and power? If you do not cling to integrity, you risk falling from the throne of grace.  

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