Integrity is an Aspiration

I realize this may seem like an unusual statement. You may even think it sounds like a cop out. After all, isn’t doing the “wrong” thing instead of the “right” thing always somehow…well, wrong?

Except integrity isn’t black and white.

Some things may seem black and white when we look through our own lens – our personal values and the beliefs we have formed or even the interpretations we form in assessing a situation.

For example, I happen to believe “thou shalt not kill”. For me that extends to the death penalty. I don’t believe it is ever right to kill someone. But there are many who see things differently. They believe in “thou shalt not kill” unless someone has killed someone else and is convicted of first degree murder. While I think and believe the way I do, I can understand why others think differently. While I may disagree, would I judge their integrity in everything they do based on that one difference of belief? The answer for me is absolutely not.

The world is complex. Individual people are complex.  No two people’s history and experiences are the same. Even identical twins raised by the same parents will often have different interpretations and memories of the same experiences.

That’s why if you are committed to living and leading with character, the most important person for you to be in integrity with is yourself.  The  real work begins and ends with you. 

It’s hard work because in doing the work of living true to your personal code of ethics you can expect the following:

1.  You will make mistakes.

At times your emotions make take over your judgment and you will make a choice that goes against what you believe. There may be times you make a choice that you felt was right at the time, but after learning more you realized you were out of alignment with what you believe. And there are times you may find yourself in a situation where the choice is not black and white, but you make a choice anyway because you would rather choose than avoid making the tough desicion.

To live with integrity has as much to do with your consistency in making choices that are aligned with what you believe as it does with being willing to recognize and own when you don’t.

And when you do realize you’ve made a mistake I suggest you take these 5 Steps to Recovering from Your Mistakes.

2.  Your words and actions will sometimes be misunderstood.

A great principle to follow when this happens is to listen to understand before you seek to be understood.  Be mindful of using the opportunity to learn rather prove you were right.  You may just discover that despite your best intentions it may be occuring, at least to some people, that you are not “walking your talk” the way you believe you are.  Using misunderstanding as a mirror will make you wiser.

3.  You will be judged.

Often the judgements will be positive, and other times they will seem harsh and perhaps even unfair.  The moment your beliefs do not match those of someone who is observing your actions you are opening yourself to having your integrity questioned. Know if you are clear about your values and beliefs you will be strong enough to withstand any assault. I use the word “assault” deliberately because, even if the judgment is delivered kindly, it can still feel like a very personal attack on your character.

If you find yourself in a situation in which you feel like you are being judged unfairly here is an article with some food for thought on how to navigate in this difficult territory:  On the Other Side of Right.

Integrity is an aspiration to live true to your personal code of ethics in word and deed. There is no place to get to and you will never be able to say you are done. Life will continue to deliver new situations and points of view that will cause you to grapple with your integrity.

Yet you will strengthen yourself and fortify your ability to lead others with every choice you make with your personal code of ethics in mind.  And with every mistake, misunderstanding and judgement you will learn to become a more compassionate and stronger leader of yourself and others.

This article was written based on my chapter in the newly released book The Character Based Leader:  Instigating a Leadership Revolution…One Person at a Time.  If you would like to read more on this subject and more on being a Character-Based Leader the book is available now.

Also, if you would like support in crafting or refining your own personal code of ethics CLICK HERE to register for a FREE e-course that will guide you clarifying the foundation for strong leadership: your core values and beliefs.  BONUS: If you are one of the first 10 people to register you will receive a FREE copy of The Character-Based Leader.  Please note this program is FREE for a limited time only.



Enter A Comment

Jocelyn   |   01 October 2012   |   Reply

Great, Susan! Thank you!

Susan Mazza   |   02 October 2012   |   Reply

Glad you stopped by and enjoyed the article Jocelyn.

Robyn Stratton-Berkessel   |   02 October 2012   |   Reply

Hi Susan,

I appreciate your post very much. Your offering of the course to refine a personal code of ethics is very appealing. Thank you for making it possible.

As I read this post about “integrity as an inspiration.” wholeness is what comes up for me. After all, integrity means oneness, wholeness. On our life’s journey, we do fall out of our integrity, providing us opportunities for learning and development. Falling out of integrity is upsetting; and, as you suggest, every experience of falling out of integrity provokes a reality check that helps strengthen our resolve and reconnects us to our wholeness.

If we think about the process of leadership as one of leading from and for the whole, what does that look like?

Susan Mazza   |   02 October 2012   |   Reply

Yes Robyn – integrity is definitely about wholeness. Thank you for highlighting that.

Love how you said this… “Falling out of integrity provokes a reality check that helps strengthen our resolve and reconnects us to our wholeness.”

Great question too…I actually think that is the essence of what it means to be a Character-Based Leader!

Vinay   |   06 October 2012   |   Reply

Susan, great post. I think it is an ongoing journey to fully realize ourselves. You give great tips to practice during this journey! My personal aspirations shaped by my parents – http://wp.me/p1UenB-9V

Susan Mazza   |   16 October 2012   |   Reply

Hi Vinay,

Your post with the wisdom you share from your parents is wonderful. Thank you for sharing it with us here.

Honored that you stopped by Vinay. I have quickly become a fan of yours on twitter as your tweets are both eloquent and get to the heart of whatever the conversation may be.

Michael Clark   |   30 October 2012   |   Reply

This is a perfect post. I’m blow-away. Love the links for additional support. Can’t locate on Twitter, would love to RT.
Thank you!

Susan Mazza   |   30 October 2012   |   Reply

Thanks so much Michael. I’ll DM you the permalink.

FYI, You can always get the link that goes directly to a post by clicking on the post title. The permalink will display in your browser’s address bar.

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