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Integrity: Skill Not Will

Posted by Stuart Brody on August 16, 2016 at 12:00 AM

How Does Integrity Differ from Ethics and Morals?

Stu explains that all three terms can be a trap because they are often used interchangeably in a way that does not provide any clarity. He suggests that we should be more careful about how we use those words. Ethics is a body of regulations, e.g. academic and business, which involves consequences if violated. Morality is a commonly accepted sense of values in society that have to do with right and wrong, but may not always be just. Integrity, on the other hand, involves deeper questioning of those conventionally accepted ideas of right and wrong – it is one’s realm of conduct when no one is watching.

Can Integrity Be Taught?

Stu emphasizes that integrity can and must be taught; we must dispel the notion that we are either born with it or not because the idea that it is innate is dangerous. Everyone thinks they have it, and that keeps us from thinking about how we can be educated to better decision making, which is what integrity is ultimately about. Integrity can be taught in the same way that management techniques can be taught.

Improve Your Level of Integrity

Most people who think about integrity would say it is something that you have, but if you accept the idea that it is something you practice decision by decision, you will be better able to improve. Integrity consists largely of discerning what you owe somebody else and fulfilling those duties. Keep in mind that loyalty frequently competes with truthfulness as a duty, and we must find a way to fulfill both.

 How Can You Practice Integrity When You Have Self-Interest?

Self-interest comes in many shapes and sizes. It undermines integrity, but is also natural. It can be an overt act of corruption, e.g. bribery or embezzlement, but it can also involve not fulfilling a duty to the public if you’re a public servant or an elected figure. You need to determine your responsibilities and expectations, and then determine how to fulfill multiple duties to multiple people, even when it isn’t easy to do. If you have two conflicting promises or duties and can’t fulfill them both, you must ask to be released from one, even if that is difficult or embarrassing to do. There is not just one “right thing” to do, there are several, and they can compete with each other, so you need to develop a system to work on and resolve that.

How Do You Know If You Really Have Integrity?

It is best to begin by understanding that integrity isn not something that you possess, but rather something you practice. We all commit breaches of integrity. But you know you are practicing integrity if you’re thinking on a daily basis about your duties and responsibilities, and if you are keeping your promises. When you balance your duties, you know that you are practicing integrity. And by learning the skills of balancing duties, you can earn immense rewards from your resourcefulness.