After another weekend of watching NFL football, I started thinking about the quote from football great Vince Lombardi that, “Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.” This led me to think about the famous quote from The Prince by Machiavelli that the “end justifies the means.” I started wondering – is this really what our personal and professional lives have been reduced to –success at any cost? Is this truly how we measure and gauge people? It’s a legitimate thought – we see it all the time, athletes taking performance-enhancing drugs to give them the strength and the speed they need to become the best at their sport, sales people and lawyers over-promising and under-performing to hit their required quota or bring a client in the door, or a CEO overstating projected earnings to keep the board of directors and shareholders happy so he/she can keep his or her job for a little bit longer. These are just a few examples, but all of us have had experiences with family, friends, colleagues and others who were less than truthful and never quite did what they said they were going to do.
But what happens after you become successful and reach the top? While it’s great to achieve your peak performance and become successful – the saying is true – success is fleeting. Whether it’s athletes like Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods or Joe Montana; companies like Pan Am, Kodak, Enron or Woolworth’s; or CEOs like Chuck Conway, Juergen Schrempp or Eckhard Pfeiffer; the bottom line is that over time, success comes and goes.
I would argue that we, as women, should lead by example and focus less on success and more on integrity. Why? Unlike success, integrity is forever. But, what does it mean to have integrity? The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines integrity as “firm adherence to a code of especially moral or artistic values; an unimpaired condition; the quality or state of being complete or undivided.” I prefer a much more straightforward definition of integrity – doing the right thing at all times, under all circumstances regardless of whether or not anyone is watching. Because doing what is right regardless of the circumstances is never easy, integrity requires that we as women be and remain courageous at all times.
Building integrity requires hard work. It is not a quick set-up, often taking many years, but if done well and tended to properly it will last your lifetime.
So what are some steps for building and tending to your integrity?
- Always be truth and candid with yourself and others. It can be difficult to always be honest and direct with family, friends and colleagues. However, you will build stronger more robust relationships with people if you can provide honest and direct feedback about expectations and performance. However, remember these circumstances are not a license to be mean or cause unnecessary harm.
- Build trust by doing what you are say you are going to do. To quote Meg Whitman, CEO of Hewlett Packard Enterprise, “Say what you mean and mean what you say and get it done without a lot of stuff.”
- Be accountable. Admit when you have made a mistake and apologize for it. Never blame others for your mistakes.
- Perfect your communication skills. Think carefully before you speak and review e-mails before sending to make sure that what you are communicating is not ambiguous or could be misconstrued.
- Practice servant leadership. Dedicate yourself to helping others be their best at home, work and in their community. Praise effort, progress and success.
- Don’t be afraid to say no. No one can do everything and follow through on it.
- Be respectful and support the decisions of others.
- Associate with people of high integrity and avoid people who lack integrity.
- Never, ever, compromise your integrity under any circumstances.
“Somebody once said that in looking for people to hire, you look for three qualities: integrity, intelligence, and energy. And if you don’t have the first, the other two will kill you.” – Warren Buffet
This post was written by Lisa Mueller.