Integrity and Character
GODSun Perspective on
Spirituality, Leadership and Business
May 2023 Vol 0523
Exploring the Interconnectedness of Spirituality, Leadership and Business
This is the fifth newsletter looking at the interconnectedness between the spiritual, leadership and business arenas. I am trying to post a newsletter near the end of every month. At least that is my intention.
As I stated previously, I believe that having a clear understanding of what you believe will enable you to be a more effective leader and business owner. This recognition will generate power and excellence in whatever is done.
There are probably a number of reasons why a person starts a business: for income, to do what they enjoy, to have freedom, etc. But ultimately, if you think about it, in order to be successful in your endeavour you have to be able to influence people to purchase your service or product. If you have come up with a product that everyone needs then you don’t need to have much influence to get them to purchase. Their need will push them to buy the product. But, if they have choice, then they will make the decision based on price point, quality and trust. If you are offering a service, the person purchasing your service will probably start with the trust factor. They want to find out if you are reliable? Do you deliver on your promises? They will ask their friends to whom have they have and what was their experience. Or they’ll go on line and google the company to get a feel for the organization. Some may say, well I have to like you first. Maybe, but I am not sure about that. There are people that I like but I wouldn’t trust to take care of certain things or wouldn’t partner with to get a job done. You have to have trust in their competence, in their ability to take care of business, to do what they say they will do.
Photo by Brett Jordan – Unsplash
The next question is: What is trust based on? Trust is based on character. Do they do what they say they’re going to do? Are they honest? Do they practice what they preach? Are they dependable? Do they act in a fair and just manner towards everyone or are they a respecter of persons? By this I mean do they treat someone they think is wealthy different from someone they deem to be poor or less economically advantaged. If you treat people different based on your perception of them in any area (financially, educationally, socially, etc.) you are a respecter of persons. Then the next question will be, can they do the right thing? Can you trust them to know what the right thing is and will they do it every time? In other words:
Are you viewed as a person with integrity and character?
What’s the difference you may ask. Well, a person of integrity knows the difference between right and wrong. Unfortunately, this seems to be lacking in many areas of our society where high profile people are engaged in illegal activities. Everyone can identify it but they don’t seem to have any problem with the activities as long as it is producing what they want. They are saying that the end result (getting what I want) justifies the means. When we live in a culture that has lost its integrity and supports organizations that publically struggle with knowing what is right and what is wrong, then we will be challenged to be a people of integrity. Or stated another way if we, as a business, follow the money and implement harmful systems in order to access the money, we have lost integrity. We may all become like the people in Hans Christian Andersen’s children’s story “ The Emperor’s New Clothes”. Everyone knew that the emperor was naked, but everyone went along with the lie regarding his lack of covering because it benefitted them to do so. Instead of the shysters, who made the fake clothing, being exposed as frauds, which was the right thing to do in order to save the Emperor’s dignity, everyone went along with the lie, thus creating a culture based on lies and fear. Fear because everyone was parroting the lie as truth so that those who knew it to be a lie were afraid to speak the truth and therefore, said nothing. But silence or choosing not to get involved is the same as being in agreement. Silence prevents another standard from being raised, around which people of integrity can rally. There is a saying that has been attributed to Edmund Burke but seems to be a paraphrase of a John Stuart Mills address given at the University of St. Andrews that I think is appropriate here:
“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”
Only a child, who had not yet learned to lie and justify doing the wrong thing, spoke the truth. In the story everyone knew the truth and knew what the right thing was to do, but no one did it except the child. Due to fear, greed and non engagement, integrity was drained out of a culture/society in this story.
So to recap: integrity is knowing right from wrong. You can know right from wrong and not do the right thing. Knowing is not sufficient to be considered a person of character. A person of character is someone who knows the right thing to do and does it even if it will bring them hardship. Even if it will cost them to do the right thing. You can be a person of integrity and not be a person of character. But you cannot be a person of character without having integrity. The identity that will build trust and influence is being a person of integrity and character.
We must admit that there are organizations that major in doing the wrong thing. For example drug cartels. They want to surround themselves with people who either don’t know the difference between right and wrong or who are willing to do the wrong thing in order to achieve their own desired end. They are constant in consistently doing the wrong thing. They too have influence but not for the good. They have an influence based on fear, abuse and oppression. Those are the attributes of a bully. We talk about how bad bullying is yet we allow bully organizations to thrive and sometimes even partner with them. What does that say about our integrity and character?
When we start a business we are actually forming partnerships. I am using the term partner fairly loosely since I am not just focussing on a contractual partnership. When a customer purchases our product or service they are supporting our business and what we stand for. If it comes out that we are not a company that knows the difference between right and wrong and/or openly supports wrong activities we will lose customers. Why? If our customers are people of integrity and character, they will not support what contradicts their values and beliefs. For example: if it becomes known that a business supports or is in partnership with a company that is involved in the sex trafficking of minors, those with integrity and character will cut their ties with that company, regardless of the cost to themselves. They will do more than just talk, they will take action.
This is the same if you get into a business arrangement. You need to know that the company or person that you are partnering with is trustworthy. The reality is that you are only worthy of trust if you are a person of integrity and character. You need to be a person who knows the difference between right and wrong and who will always choose to do the right thing. Integrity and character can be seen and make no mistake about this, it is a heart issue. Integrity and character cannot be faked because they are foundational to a person and they are either there or they are not. The truth will show up in all instances of challenge. If people know what you stand for and trust you they will want to identify with you. Your influence will expand and you will be impactful. There are many companies that people take pride in identifying with due to their adherence to value and quality. Apple is one that comes to mind that would fall into this category. But, if Apple moves away from its values and becomes a company of questionable integrity and character then it is highly likely that customers with integrity and character will express their disapproval by moving to another product despite their personal cost. If the customers stay then more work is needed on integrity and character.
I believe that people can work on their integrity and character. As human beings we can change our thinking and mindset. This is where the spiritual aspect of mankind comes in. Our souls can be transformed by renewing our minds to what is true, good, lovely, of good report, etc. Then we can influence for good and not for evil. For the benefit of others and not just for ourselves. If the result of influence is for harm it will be evident and people will see it and then they will choose whether they associate with the business or not. If the ends lead to thievery, death and destruction it will be evident.
Because we have a spirit we can become more sensitive to our gut instinct or inner nudging and prompting. We also have the ability to assess end results when we follow those promptings. We can determine whether they produced good results (blessings to mankind) or whether they caused pain and lack (benefitted a few and not the masses). Then, of course, we have to also identify what it is we really want to achieve. It is very important that we are honest with ourselves, where we are and where we want to be. We cannot ignore the spiritual side of us since it is the most powerful of the triune part of man: spirit, soul and body. We need to go beyond just what can be seen and tap into our spiritual connection to make powerful and beneficial decisions.