Integrity In Leadership

The prophet Samuel left no room for accusation and his life was well-lived.

As a leader, do we have the confidence of Samuel? Are we willing to stand before men – our co-workers, employer, customers and ask them to assess our life? People sometimes tell us one thing and do another. The biblical virtue of integrity has to do with consistency between what is inside and what is outside.

The biblical virtue of integrity has to do with consistency between what is inside and what is outside.

James 2:18 says: “…Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds”. Having said that, we are all very prone to not exercising integrity at times. What do you do when you have violated your commitment to God in the area of integrity?

You may be familiar with Psalm 32:1-11. David was known as a man of integrity not because he did not sin against God but because he had consistently held to the same standard of morality. When he violated it, he called it sin. He never made excuses or took sin lightly. Whenever he sinned, he pled with God for forgiveness. He learnt and moved on. Remember that integrity does not mean that we do not sin but that whenever we sin, we confess it, make restitution, seek forgiveness and live by the set standard.

It would be wonderful if we always made the correct choices and demonstrated integrity at every ethical intersection. But the fact is, we sometimes will fail. How then do we handle our successes and our failures?

Sydney J Harris said: “A failure is not someone who has tried and failed. It is someone who has given up trying and resigned himself to failure; it is not a condition but an attitude”.

Saul and David both started out well. Along the way both sinned. The difference lay in how they responded to their failures. David recognised that he had sinned against God and did not look for someone else to blame but openly confessed his sin whereas Saul never really accepted his responsibility. Saul put the blame on some-one else. May we be like King David, who was prepared to be honest and humbled himself before God. And our God of second chances will forgive us and restore us just like He restored King David. God evaluated his motives and called him “a man after My own heart.”

How do I then demonstrate integrity?

1 Timothy 4:15-16 tells us to watch our lives. No one respects a leader who does not walk his/her talk. People may forget what we say but they will never forget how the leader lives. Paul instructed Timothy to be diligent in following God’s teachings.

v. 15 – “…give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress”.

Many organisations and workplaces are not created and endowed with a healthy dose of integrity. Integrity starts with you and me who are working daily at our workplaces. If we want our work-place to have integrity, integrity must start with you.

Samuel’s Example

Integrity starts in our hearts. Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it ~ Proverbs 4:23. A person of integrity fears God, shuns evil and lives a blameless life. Samuel lived a life of honesty and integrity. Samuel promised to repay anything he had unjustly taken from anyone. And guess what? No one rose up to make a claim against him. They said: “You have not cheated or oppressed us.You have not taken anything from anyone’s hand” ~ 1 Samuel 12:4.

Samuel held himself accountable to the people he led. He was prepared to be scrutinised by anyone whom he had ever dealt with. As a result, his leadership has been well spoken of throughout the centuries. Whatever your leadership responsibilities, whether you are managing a multi-million dollar organisation or a small enterprise, may our personal commitment to integrity show in our day to day living. As a result of that, you will be a leader that people will follow.

The key to Samuel’s integrity can be found in 1 Samuel 12:5-7, 20-24. He was very conscious of God as his witness and he was mindful that he was serving the Lord and that he would not sin against the Lord by failing to pray for his people and that he would teach them the way that was good and right and he taught them to fear the Lord and serve Him faithfully with all their heart and consider what great things the Lord had done for them. Perhaps as leaders, we have to spend some time thinking through what our plan is in order to develop the same perspectives of leadership.

Can we live an integrated life in today’s context?

It is not so easy and it’s common for us to struggle when we try to integrate our faith with our work life. But if we are able to do so, we will walk in greater freedom and security as a child of God.

Temptations to behave unethically cross all professional and vocational barriers. People nowadays seem more prone to tolerate behavior that once seemed intolerable. But we must recognise that ethical behavior is seldom a last-minute decision. It is advisable for us to establish a certain set of ethical standards or convictions before we are tested. Establish boundaries well in advance, determining not to go beyond those limits, no matter what. Have you set your ethical boundaries so as to protect yourself from compromise?

Sometimes having faith in God is so important in helping us to hold on to our biblical convictions. At times, following God may result in the loss of position or popularity. It is sad that when a person gets squeezed, what’s inside the person will come out and the question is: Are we prepared to live out our convictions even when it hurts?

Joseph was able to overcome the advances of Potiphar’s wife because he was very sure of his boundary. He asked: “How…could I do such a wicked thing and sin against God?”

“Fortitude is the capacity to say no when the world wants to hear ‘yes’”~ Erich Fromm.

“Fortitude is the capacity to say no when the world wants to hear ‘yes’”~ Erich Fromm.

Leading by example is a crucial component for integrating ethical behavior into a corporate culture. Walk your talk. Deliver what you say your core values are. Don’t expect employees to faith-fully observe the core values that the organisation’s top leaders are not willing to live out. Value can more easily be caught than taught.We always hear when people say “The majority rules!” Unfortunately nowadays, people think that honesty is old-fashioned and not practical. But is that true? “Morality is not correct conduct on the outside, but correct thinking within where only God can see” ~ Oswald Chambers.

We are all fallible, therefore we need to surround ourselves with godly friends who share the same convictions to help us to walk this narrow road. Be prepared to solicit feedback and hold yourselves accountable to each other.

When was the last time you faced a decision at work that concerned a “grey area”? Do you have friends or colleagues whom you can be accountable to?

Organisations built on ethical compromise cannot sustain long-term momentum. I really truly believe in this. Having worked in the financial industry for over 20 years, I have seen the rise and fall of Financial Planners and Agency Leaders. Many a time, we are tempted by short-term gain at the expense of a long-term future. Temptation is always knocking at our door daily. Many a time, it is a simple decision – a choice that we have to make daily.

Jesus said in Luke 16:10, “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much”. Don’t resort to short cuts of compromise to achieve our goals. We will pay the price and sometimes the price is so costly. I believe that as an agency, our corporate culture of wanting to be ethical must be intentional, supported by ongoing effort and commitment.

So, what do we do? We pray consistently about this area. We invite compliance officials of the company to talk to our staff. As a director, I will tell them real life stories of our staff who have violated the rule and have had to pay a great price either through termination or demotion. And as a director, I will not sign off any sales that may result from mis-selling. So managing a workable ethics program is a process, not an event.

How then would I respond to situations that go against my conscience?

“True courage is the knowledge of right and the determination to do it. False courage is a willingness to do what is wrong because others say it is right.” ~ Josh Bilings.

I ask myself “What do I want people to think when they think of our agency?”

We are inclined to compartmentalize our lives into spiritual and secular settings. Many of us live with two conflicting sets of rules – one for business and one for personal life. Personally I find it difficult to respect leaders who lead a double life. I truly believe that ethical standards must be applied consistently in all areas of life.

After reading this article, define in your own words what integrity means. Are there any areas in your life that are inconsistent with God’s requirement for integrity? What are they?

This is an excerpt from Doris’s book “Multiplying Marketplace Miracles”. The central focus of this book is to answer the question: “what does it look like to serve God in the marketplace, that is, at work?