In business, integrity can be a hazy concept. You might affirm your actions and decisions are just, honorable and justified. You might see yourself as the model employer. Yet to an outside observer, and sometimes to society at large, these noble thoughts and actions might be seen as manipulative, biased and self-serving.
The universe is filled with gray areas, where right and wrong become blurred. Most would agree that lying under oath in a murder trial is unethical, but lying to your grandmother that you love her beet and Brussels sprouts casserole is acceptable. Lying to the school system that your child is ill, when you’re really taking a trip to Disney World, may or may not be seen as acceptable, depending on your viewpoint. The business world can be equally ambiguous. Where do you draw the line?
Integrity in business can be elusive.
Consider the following questions. What is your position? Under what circumstances would your position change? Would others make the same choices?
- Is it ethical to charge thousands of dollars for a life-saving drug that costs pennies, if people will pay any price? What is a fair profit?
- To land a big sale, would you assure a prospect that your product can easily meet their needs, if you know it won’t?
- Would you accept a million dollar bribe to overlook major safety violations?
- Would you embellish your contribution to a project, if it meant a significant promotion?
- When, if ever do the ends justify the means?
- Is the goal of business maximizing stockholder wealth? When, if ever, should profit be sacrificed?
Right and wrong are not always evident.
. When faced with a decision, evaluate your position.
- Are you being fair?
- Are you being truthful, to yourself as well as to others?
- Do your actions match your words? Are you keeping your promises?
- Is your gain at the expense of another?
- Are you sacrificing the future for short-term profit?
- Would you welcome being treated the way you are treating others?
- Are you serving humanity, or are you serving selfish interests?
- Would your five year old child be proud of you?
These are hard questions and hard decisions. Great leaders serve the greater good, and doing good can reap rewards. Strive for integrity in your actions and in your thoughts. Make a commitment to lead responsibly and ethically. Do what is right, for yourself, your business, and ultimately, for humanity.