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How to gain a reputation for honesty and integrity

1. Viewpoint

"In order to be a leader, a man must have followers. And to have followers, a man must have their confidence. Hence, the supreme quality for a leader is unquestionably integrity. Without it no real success is possible, no matter whether it is on a section gang or football field, in the army or in the office. If he lacks forthright integrity, he will fail. His teachings and actions must square with each other. The first great need, therefore, is integrity and high purpose."

Dwight D. Eisenhower.

2. Don't forget

In business and in life…

  • practise truthfulness and honesty always.
  • develop moral courage and stand up for what you know to be right.
  • practise what you preach.
  • never abuse the privil-eges of your position.
  • never make a promise you can’t keep.

Do all these things, and you cannot possibly fail yourself, your family, your working colleagues, or your organisation.

3. Smile & ponder

Back in the 1930s, so the story goes, a baker in Scotland suspected that a farmer who was supplying his butter was giving him short weight.

Over a period of several weeks he carefully checked the weight and his suspicions were confirmed. This so angered him that he had the farmer arrested.

‘I assume you have weights,’ said the judge at the farmer’s trial.

‘No, sir, I don’t,’ replied the farmer.

‘Then how do you weigh the butter you sell?’

‘Well,’ said the farmer, ‘when the baker began buying butter from me, I decided to get my bread from him. I just use the one-pound loaf he sells me as a weight for the butter I sell. If the weight of the butter is wrong, he has only himself to blame.’

The moral of the story is that dishonesty will ultimately return to haunt us which is why managers need to gain a reputation for honesty and integrity.

4. Getting around the Great Wall

In ancient China, the people wanted to be secure against the barbaric hordes to the north, so they built the great wall.

They built it up to 12 metres high so that no one could climb over it.

They built it nearly 10 metres thick so that nothing could break it down.

They built it 10000 km long so that no one could get around it.

And then they settled back to enjoy their security.

During the first hundred years of the wall's existence, China was invaded three times. Not once did the barbaric hordes climb over the wall or break it down or go around it. Each time they bribed the gatekeepers and then marched right through the gates!

You see, the Chinese relied so much on their walls of stone that they forgot to teach integrity to their children.

2000 years later, US President Dwight D. Eisenhower pinpointed the problem. He said that 'without honesty and integrity, no real success is possible, no matter whether it is on a road gang, a football field, in the army or in the office. If people lack forthright integrity, they will fail. Therefore,' he said, 'the first great need is integrity and high purpose.'

In business, as in life, remember at all times to:

  • develop moral courage and stand up for what you know to be right.
  • practise truthfulness and honesty at all times.
  • practise what you preach.
  • never abuse the privileges of your position.
  • never make a promise you can't keep.

And if you can do all those things, you cannot possibly fail yourself, your family, your working colleagues, or your organisation.

5. Integrity-the supreme quality

Every time we engage in a dishonest act, chances are the results will return to haunt us. So the key question we must continually ask ourselves is: 'What is the right thing to do?'

For Bill Newman, in 'The Ten Laws of Leadership', the answer is simple:

  • Be a person who honours your word.
  • Don't lie to cover facts. Nothing increases compatibility like mutual trust and honesty. Credibility is hard to regain.
  • Watch the bribes that may compromise your position.
  • Be responsible for your mistakes and learn from them. Don't 'pass the heat on to others' for your mistakes.
  • Guard your tongue. Don't divulge information given in confidence.

6. Integrity-that most important quality

According to John Maxwell, author of 'Developing the Leader within You', a survey of 1300 senior US executives found that the human quality most necessary to success is integrity. Maxwell says that integrity must be demonstrated daily in such tangible ways as these:

  • Live what you preach. Deciding what to be is more important than deciding what to do. It's not a case of 'what are you going to do when you grow up?' but rather 'what are you going to be?'. The character decision must be made before a career is chosen.
  • Do what you say. If you promise something to a colleague or superior, keep your word. The one unforgivable sin is betraying a trust or breaking a promise.
  • Be honest with others. If those you work with ever catch you misrepresenting the facts or covering up, you will lose credibility. And it will not be easy to repair.
  • Put what is best for others ahead of what is best for you. Put first your organisation and those you work with. In so doing, you'll develop friendships and loyalty, and keep integrity with those who employ you.
  • Be transparent and vulnerable. 'Long ago', writes Maxwell, 'I realised that in working with people I have two choices… If I close my arms, I won't get hurt, but I will not get help either. If I open my arms I likely will get hurt, but I will also receive help. So I've opened my arms and allowed others to enjoy the journey with me. My greatest gift to others is not a job, but myself. That is true of any leader.'

7. Avoiding the Eight Sins of Management

As a manager, it's essential that you act like a professional in the workplace. Your staff will take their cue from you. If you act unprofessionally, your employees will probably follow in your footsteps. Roger Fulton, in 'Common Sense Supervision', advises that all managers should monitor their actions in eight vital areas, and to ensure they are not guilty of overstepping the mark in any of them-sarcasm, gossip, sexism, racism, ethnic jokes, practical jokes, obscenities and rumours.

Set the example. Gain a reputation for honesty and integrity.

8. A model for action

Take some time to think of people who have demonstrated leadership qualities to you. Who are the leaders you know? Make a list of them today. The list could include your boss, co-workers, spouse or relatives, and friends, as well as historical figures, people you've met through books, television, or other media. It makes no difference how long you make your list.

Now, why do you consider the people on your list leaders? What did they do to deserve that honour? List their qualities. Explain your reasoning.

To become a leader, you'll need to develop the same or similar qualities. Would you say you're already on track? How can you speed up that process? And if you're not on track, how can you get there?

Use your answers to set some targets for your life, and then proceed to achieve those targets.

9. How's your credibility rating?

The manager who creates an atmosphere of trust can get more out of staff. The key is to make it clear you want to know what they really think.

According to the journal 'Organizational Dynamics', managers should ask themselves these questions:

  • Do I give subordinates' ideas an unbiased hearing?
  • Do I show respect for people who disagree with me?

To win your staff's trust, you should be honest and direct and listen calmly. Let your staff know how cooperative you can be.

10. A question of integrity

There are a number of questions you must ask yourself when assessing your integrity. Do you have a good value system? Are you honest, straightforward, and non-manipulating? Do you tell the truth and keep your promises even if circum-stances have changed since you gave your word? Do you avoid even the appearance of impropriety, and are you aware that the company you keep can be a reflection on your own integrity? Do you pay as much attention to the spirit of the law as you do to the letter of the law?

The same questions apply to your organisation. Does it stand behind its products? Do the senior people who sell them-selves to clients and customers as part of the service actually do the work? Does the organisation pay its bills when it says it will? Does it give back to the community or try to get around zoning laws or recycling and dumping ordinances?…

Adapted from Frank Sonnenberg's Managing with a Conscience.

11. The keys to doing what is right:

Verify your own values.

Articulate your own ethical grid and philosophy of life.

Learn the proper perspectives on issues.

Unpack right values through action.

Evaluate your growth.

Share these truths (your values) with other people.

Ron Jenson, Future Achievement International

12. Watch it

Watch your thoughts; they become words.

Watch your words; they become actions.

Watch your actions; they become habits.

Watch your habits; they become character.

Watch your character; it becomes your destiny.

Frank Outlaw

13. Quotable quote

"The riches of the world pale in comparison to the value of an honest opinion."

Harvey Mackay, Dig Your Well Before You're Thirsty, Currency, 1997, p. 186.