Integrity is the quality of being completely honest. A quality that can seem rare and a bit old fashioned. Some might even call it naive. Or weak.
But integrity also has to do with being sound in construction. Strong. "Structural integrity" is kind of a big deal. Especially if you're on a bridge. Integrity matters.
Businesses that are willing cut corners in the currency of honesty to increase profit really aren’t all that smart and they certainly aren’t strong. They're shaky. They’ve become weakened -- compromised -- by esteeming money over honesty. And any financial gain achieved by dishonesty is a house of cards that almost always crumbles in time. Tick tock.
Integrity is deep and inner. Anyone can say they have integrity. But true integrity transcends claims. It has everything to do with the internal character of the leader(s) in any given business.
The old Shakespearean adage, “to thine own self be true” was never intended to mean, “Do whatever you want, regardless of how it affects others.” Though that’s what it seems to mean for a lot of people today. You’ve heard it: “Eff everybody, I just gotta be true to myself” -- words sometimes spoken when a person is treating others badly and justifying it by “being true” to themselves.
But in Shakespeare’s quote from Act 1 Scene III of Hamlet, Polonius says, “This above all: to thine own self be true. And it must follow, as the night the day. Thou canst not then be false to any man.”
If you’re truly true to -- or within -- yourself, if truth really lives in you and drives you, you can’t be false to any other human because you’d be a lie within yourself. Truth to self means truth towards yourself. And a willingness to stand under the scrutiny of truth when it’s applied to you.
That’s integrity. It’s doing the right thing even when no one’s looking. It’s doing the right thing even if it means losing money. It’s doing right even if people consider you old fashioned, weak, or naive.
And a business built on a foundation of truth and integrity is unassailable. It’s unable to be attacked, questioned, or defeated. It will stand when it comes under scrutiny. It’s strong and it’s built to last.
Sometimes this means slower growth. But wouldn't you rather be slow and steady than quick and shaky? Isn't it better to not have to constantly worry and look over your shoulder and cover your tracks and remember all those lies? Mark Twain said, “If you tell the truth you won't have to remember anything.” It’s exhausting to live lies.
It doesn’t matter if other businesses seem to be getting away with lies, making money hand over fist, and profiting by cheating. It’s short-sighted and unwise and it will always catch up to them. They are miserable, paranoid, and destined to lose big sooner than they think. Don’t follow their path. Call it Karma, call it reaping and sowing, call it whatever you want. It’s simply the way life works. Tick tock.
So build your business on the unassailable foundation of integrity. And if you do, I’ll be first in line to do business with you.