Most of our companies that we work for would have a values statement, and most of them include integrity as one of these values.  My observation is that many people espouse integrity but few really understand it.   Many seem to believe that if I am not corrupt or I don’t break the law then I have shown integrity.

To me integrity is more than following the rules or not being corrupt.  To me it is about doing what is right, guiding your everyday actions by your values, being honest with yourself and taking responsibility; and being honest with others.  It is about acting with best interests of your loved ones, stakeholders and your purpose, and not in the interests of preservation or fear.  It is far more subtle and day to day than what most people think.  In fact every day we make hundreds of thoughts and decisions where our integrity plays a part.

Before I go on I need to make one point.  When I refer to honesty in the context of integrity I mean those who have genuine concern for others and they have a general desire to do what is right.  I am not taking about the form of honesty which is mean, nasty and comes from a need to put others down to raise yourself up.  I am talking here about care and candour.

Being nice when it is not in the best interests of those you care about is not acting with integrity. Compromising your purpose to do what is comfortable is not acting with integrity.   Likewise spending unnecessary energy on something to prove yourself and get validation is not acting with integrity either.  In these examples they are about doing what makes me feel comfortable, not what the right thing to do is.

Being honest means being honest with yourself; honest with others; and being open minded when others are honest with you.

You may have a natural desire to be defensive but being honest means taking responsibility and holding yourself to account.

You may give feedback or have a tough conversation which may upset or offend someone. They may hold a grudge and never forgive you for it.

You may receive feedback that you find uncomfortable. Your tendency may be to defend rather than process it thus missing a valuable opportunity to grow.

Not everyone will love you for being honest.  But you will have a greater impact in life and those who were open to what you had to say will respect you for it.    And if it is a major life changing event and you are not honest with people it can be a massive betrayal.  People will move on from a difficult decision but they will never move on or grow if you weren’t honest with them.

My experience is that honest feedback is one of the biggest motivational tools for a leader, and significantly reduces stress in the team as people know where they stand.