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What’s a Character Trait of a Successful Business Leader? Integrity.

Exploring the meaningful contrasts between honesty and integrity in business.

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“Have the courage to say no. Have the courage to face the truth. Do the right thing because it is right. These are the magic keys to living your life with integrity.”
-W. Clement Stone

An effective business leader is tasked with the responsibility to build a company reputation that is trustworthy, offers quality products and services at a fair price, and provides honest sales and marketing campaigns while generating strong profit margins.

When you create an environment that has ethical standards backed by your personal integrity, you become a leader whom your company stakeholders, your suppliers, and your employees will follow. Even your competitors will respect you.

In the world of business—and on a personal level—the concepts of honesty and integrity are often viewed as similar, if not interchangeable. But they are not synonymous. The contrasts between the two are meaningful and worth understanding for anyone who wants to conduct smarter business.  

Honesty is defined as being free of deceit and being truthful or sincere. In terms of behavior, an honest person does not tell lies; he or she always speaks the whole truth. Dishonesty, of course, is the opposite of honesty; a dishonest person lies, cheats, and deceives others. Considered to be a moral virtue in many religions and philosophies, honesty shapes a decision-making process for determining right and wrong, based on the truth.

Honesty in Action

However, honesty alone does not mean a person has integrity. For example, the president of a large computer company is participating in a sales presentation to their largest customer. A competitor is offering a similar product with a key feature that his product does not have yet. The sales director states that the company will have this feature in six months. The president knows that it will take at least 18-months to develop and add this feature. The customer does not ask the president if six months is feasible. Is the president acting honestly if he remains silent? No! A lack of full disclosure is deceptive. A person with integrity will admit the truth and act honestly.

Integrity is a bit more complex. It is being honest and following a strict ethical code. Exemplified by a person who always admits his or her mistakes, a person with integrity is trustworthy, consistent, and steadfast. If a person is acting according to an ethical code, he or she is said to have integrity. Integrity is usually based on learned principles.

Integrity in Action

Integrity includes selecting an ethical code and acting according to these guidelines even when it is difficult or inconvenient to do so. Again, using the above example of the lack of full disclosure, if you are a person with integrity, you would be truthful.

High Standards of Business Leadership To increase trust with your colleagues and your clientele, to maintain a good reputation, and to sell products and services that symbolize quality, your honesty is crucial to an ethical business. However, your integrity is the cornerstone of successful leadership.

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