Integrity: derived from the Latin word Integer, meaning whole or complete. I take that to mean, when all the parts of your personality are aligned; like a Laser, a beam in which every wave precisely reinforces every other. Where the personality is not “splintered”, not struggling with itself. A splintered personality struggles with itself. It is not conscious of all the parts of itself. The values, perceptions, and behaviours of a splintered personality are not integrated, therefore it becomes challenging to act from a place of Integrity according to the above definition.
For example a businessman may be financially successful, considered successful by society in general, because he has all the outward manifestations of financial wealth. But he may not be emotionally, spiritually or relationally successful/wealthy. The idea of becoming more integrated by working on these aforementioned areas of development may raise such fear in him that he chooses to remain splintered; that means not integrated. Heard the quote “Some people are so poor, all they have is money”? This is a way of describing the deficit in aspects of the human spirit. The splintered personality is often considered to work from a place of fear and aversion. It fears aspects of itself that threaten what it seeks and what it has attained. So being in life/work with a lack of integrity/integration remains the order of the day. To use an analogy, a Laser is like a whole/integrated personality. Laser is light that does not struggle with itself. Most people are far from this.
An individual may hold an opinion that another “has integrity” to the extent that they act according to certain values, beliefs and principles they claim to hold. Values, beliefs and principles all have their genesis within an individual’s thoughts. All of this comes from within their inner world. All three are made manifest with Action. In essence, the way a person behaves, the decisions they make, is usually an outer manifestation of their values, beliefs and principles. An article I read recently talked about how dictionary definitions ‘connect Integrity to a person’s moral code, personalising it’. My view is that this is where Integrity IS held, totally within your inner world. Integrity cannot be held outside of you, otherwise, you could leave it at work when you go home at the end of the day and vice versa. It has to be something that is so totally you that wherever you go, there it is. Indistinct from who and what you are, totally Integrated, unsplintered; hence the Laser analogy. The author of the article, Mary Gregory, a leading Executive Coach, posits that ‘attempts to address a loss of integrity are perceived as judgemental’. My view is this; ‘judgement’ always appears to have an element of malice in it. The person doing the ‘judging’ seeks to be judge and jury. Often times the person doing the judging is trying to ‘take a spec out of the others eye, when they have a plank in their own eye’. You can only re-cognise something if you know what it looks like. Re-cognise meaning re-knowing! If this is used the hammer the other person, then of course it is a judgement. From what I have witnessed in some workplaces and elsewhere, there can be much hypocritical, self-righteous judgement of others. If this is used to address ‘a loss of integrity’ in any one individual it cannot be helpful. In fact, unless you know what it is to be Integrated (which is where the word Integrity comes from), how then can you stand and judge one who is supposedly not. Whether it’s a moral judgement or not, how would you know what it is supposed to look like, feel like? What qualifies you to look at another through this particular set of lenses?
No one person ought to be judge and jury, but you can have a conversation for possibilities and action deriving from an informed idea of what actually happened – without malice. Of course if you are a fully integrated being, you may recognise and understand why another acts the way they do. Organisations are not able to account for that which exists within any human so this idea of managing working from a place of Integrity will always be challenging. It may prove useful for organisations to outline criteria for what they consider to be clear behaviour aligned with Integrity. In that way, individuals who may consider themselves ‘splintered’ in their decision making may have some ‘to hand’ guidance.
If you are a fully integrated being, your integrity is unlikely to slip since that is who you fully are, but a fully integrated being in the corporate world of work would have to accept the consequences of their actions on a completely different level, since the goals of the Balance Sheet are not always aligned with taking action with Integrity. I suspect, therein lay the challenges faced by those who have been involved in highly publicised scandals of recent years.
So in responding to this aspect of Mary Gregory’s article where she states: “Creating a commonly shared understanding of integrity and its impact that removes the moral judgement, is the beginning of creating the conditions and conversation where breakdowns in integrity can be addressed and rectified.” Yes, it is a good idea to have a commonly shared understanding of integrity and its impact. I would say that is a given. However when I looked up the meaning of the word ‘moral’, I found it difficult to feel comfortable with removing it in dealing with issues of ‘breakdowns in integrity’. Here are some of the synonyms of the word moral: ethical, good, right, honest, decent, proper, honourable and just. Are these not the very words that ought to be aligned with the word judgement? If there is going to be any judgement at all, should it not be ethical, good, decent, honest etc? The issue is not the moral aspect of judgement, it is the idea of judgement at all and who is responsible for the execution of it. Where Judgement (moral or otherwise) becomes an issue is where a Leader who is not fully integrated as a person, formulates opinion and takes action regarding another who is also not fully integrated (remember the spec in the eye example?). Lapses in Integrity are not just calling for:- clearly defined meanings and behaviours embodying the meaning of the word, nor adherence to removing moral judgement around it. It does in fact highlight that what the individual is trying to do he/she does not actually have the competence for that would require clear values, perceptions and behaviours in decision making.
Question is how do you embody and exhibit Integrity in your behaviours, when aspects of yourself are splintered and not fully Integrated? These competences are built from on-going inner work. This inner work shapes and guides your values, beliefs and principles. Your behaviour essentially gives the world a glimpse of who you are inside. So whenever there is a lapse of integrity and it is judged by others, this may be the reason why you take it so personally. You are experiencing the judgement as an attack on all the things you hold inside of you, which are your values, beliefs and principles. The things that you think make you, you. There is no getting away from the fact that Integrity is indeed personal. It takes huge courage to willingly look within, but it requires courage of another level to stare specifically at our own Integrity.