To Live With Integrity, Define It

You would be hard pressed to hear a person, or company, claim a lack of integrity. I am going to hypothesize that most people, and most companies, consider integrity a core value. So then, if integrity is such a given, why is it even discussed? Should it be a check box item for being a decent human being? Somewhere up there with not torturing animals? You don’t’ have to go around proclaiming that you don’t torture animals. Right?

It has been my experience that the definition of integrity may be quite different from one person to the next. Lets examine… Is integrity a value, or adherence to values or moral principles? I vote for the latter. This begs the question, “what moral principles and values?”

Given this thought process, I am going to throw out the idea that perhaps using the word integrity is not useful on its own. If we truly want to define our company’s core values, we need granular definitions in our values statements. Being a company of integrity means being a company that stands behind a core set of values. Define those values and you help your customers, prospects, employees and shareholders build a vision for what kind of experience they will have with your brand.

Berkshire Hathaway’s Warren Buffett makes a great effort to define the actions he defines as integrity. He even sends his senior managers a yearly letter reminding them of the company’s value-based behavior expectations. In his blog post, “3 Things Buffett Looks for in People,” he names the traits he looks for as “intelligence, energy, and integrity. And if they don’t have the last one, don’t even bother with the first two….” In a CBS MoneyWatch post, “How Warren Buffett Defines Integrity,” he goes further and defines integrity as “the ability to say no.” That is pretty granular.

What does integrity mean to you?