Integrity costs nothing, but when you lose it, you lose everything. Integrity is key to everything we do. It is pivotal to business. We need to impart integrity to the youth, act with integrity in relationships, show integrity in parenting and, in fact, in everything we do.
“Character is doing the right thing when nobody’s looking. There are too many people who think that the only thing that’s right is to get by, and the only thing that’s wrong is to get caught.”
– famous J.C. Watts saying
What is integrity
Integrity is ‘doing the right thing in all aspects of one’s life’. I believe that the confusion over this word – which is found in corporate vision and mission statements the world over – is that even if people think they understand what integrity is, that don’t necessarily know how to apply it in in their everyday lives.
So, even if you know what integrity means, that does not necessarily mean that you know how to apply it practically, e.g. in being punctual, being honest, acting truthfully and basically keeping your word and doing what you say you are going to do.
For this reason, I hope to challenge schools, businesses and governmental departments to take the integrity pledge, available at https://integrityforum.co.za/pledge/. In making this pledge, individuals from all walks of life will inspire and challenge others to greater heights of ethical behavior across the board and will serve to raise the moral standards of society incrementally.
However, we need to be mindful of the fact that doing the right thing for one person differs greatly from how another person would behave. Opinions also differ from culture to culture.
My work focuses on encouraging individuals to self-reflect and make a choice. We always have a choice.
I can choose to steal this pen or squander these funds. I can choose to come late. Essentially, integrity forms a critical part of emotional intelligence, because if you are able to self-reflect – to have the necessary conversation/discussion in your head – you are more likely to choose right over wrong.
If people did the right thing more often, there would be less abuse, less rape, less murder, less of everything harmful and negative in society, because people would be choosing to do the right thing.
A recent example I set was covered in the Cape Argus (25 Jan 2019), when a group of young sea cadets found a cellphone on the beach, argued over who had found it and what to do with it, and then recalled their Code of Conduct and an integrity-focused lecture I had recently given them. Arriving back at their unit, the two cadets handed the iPhone over to the commanding officer and its owner was soon tracked down.
In the pipeline from my company during 2019 is South Africa’s first ever Integrity Forum, in which CEOs, members of government, educational or religious leaders and the youth will congregate to speak, debate and thrash out ways to instill integrity into our society by encouraging better choices in our daily lives.
A preliminary date for this important event will be announced during March at www.integrityforum.co.za. A practical handbook of all things integrity-related will also be available at the Forum.
According to Tradingeconomics.com, South Africa’s Corruption Percentage to date – at 73 – is the highest its ever been over the period 1996 to 2018.
The question is:
“Where does our country stand on the integrity meter today? How about the world? What are we going to do about it? If we don’t do something, what is in store for us?“
– tweeted Prof Thuli Madonsela.
With so much rot, decay and corruption being in evidence universally, there is no better time than now to act with integrity.
In South Africa, we clearly need to schedule more integrity-based leadership training roll-outs – not only in our organisations and at government level, but also within schools. It will help to ensure that this way of approaching challenging situations impacts our youth now, as well as in the future.