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A close-up of a newly opened delphinium flower (Summer 2013).

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

A Peek At Integrity

In looking for people to hire, look for three qualities: integrity, 
intelligence and energy. And if they don’t have the first, 
the other two will kill you. 

~Warren Buffet 

If honesty did not exist, it would have to be invented, 
as it is the surest way of getting rich.

~Earl Nightingale

If you look at yourself in the mirror, and ask if you can be trusted with another person's life and possessions, and if, without blinking, your answer is Yes, then you are a person of integrity. 

If you are a person expecting others to have integrity, you must have it first yourself. In the words of St. Augustine, "That which you want to ignite in others has to be burning in yourself."

We are drawn to people with high moral standards. We like people we can trust. We feel safe with them. 

We desire our leaders to have integrity: citizens of any country clamor for it from their politicians; employees desire it from their managers and bosses; religious people expect it from their clergy and priests; and stockholders demand it from corporations.

We want to see integrity in our families: a truthful son, a faithful husband, a just father, an honest mother-in-law, a dependable daughter.

We expect integrity from our friends: their loyalty, honesty, trustworthiness, sincerity.

What is integrity?

The word originated from late Middle English, which means "intact." In Latin, it is "integritas", which means wholeness, completeness, purity, and integratedness. The dictionary defines it as "the quality of being steadfast and honest" (New Oxford American Dictionary). It implies good character, decency, fairness, sincerity, and trustworthiness. It is a key character strength and virtue (Peterson & Seligman, 2004).

Of the 555 personality-trait words (see Anderson's ratings, 1968), the two highest rated were sincere and honest, with loyal, truthful, trustworthy,  and  dependable all in the top 10. Conversely, liar and phony are the two least desirable traits, with dishonest, untruthful, dishonorable, and deceitful all in the bottom 10. 

Why is integrity important?

Personal strength. If you were to make a choice between an attractive but untrustworthy person and a plain but honest one, I am sure you will choose the plain but honest one. The honest person has personal power because this individual has set the bar high when it comes to personal values. The honest person will be sought after and will be in demand, while the dishonest one will ultimately lose family, friends, and social approval.

#1 quality in excellent leadership. A good leader says what he means and means what he says. He is consistent (i.e., fulfills promises and observes expectations he creates), coherent (i.e., acts on the basis of norms and values irrespective of the relationship in question, does not support double-standard of morality), and constant (i.e., acts the same way in similar situations, is not a chameleon; Kaptein, 2003).

Social necessity. Integrity is an important aspect of any civilized society. We go to our bank and expect that our saved money, up to the last centavo, is safe. We buy groceries and feel confident that the items we purchase are as good as the labels and expiry dates written on them, and in paying for them, we trust that we get the correct change, up to the last centavo. 

Your integrity (or lack of it) defines who you are. It specifies where you stand in in situations that call for tough decisions and responsible actions. 

Who you are will be shown in a day-to-day basis, when you have to make choices between competing values which could affect those people you love and care about.

Remember that between two values, always choose the higher value.


This is just a peek at integrity. I am curious as to what factors lead some people to be liars, dishonest, cheaters, and deceitful. Is it their childhood environment? Is it their unmet needs? Is it the influence of others? Is it greed? Is it genetics (inheritable)?

Let me know if you have questions or if you want to suggest aspects of integrity to be discussed in my blog next week.

Thank you, dear readers, for visiting my website. Enjoy the rest of your week.


Anderson, N. (1968). Likableness ratings of 555 personality-trait words. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 9, 272–279.

Kaptein, M. (2003). The diamond of managerial integrity. European Management Journal, 21(1), 99-108.

Peterson, C., & Seligman, M.E.P. (2004). Character strengths and virtues: A handbook and classification. New York: Oxford University Press. 

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