Integrity as our Foundation

Lesson 1: Topic 6 of 19

Integrity is the foundation of good leadership. It helps us decide what sort of person we want to become, defines our duties to others, and determines what kind of legacy we leave behind. 

The employee who works while on the clock, even when her coworkers are doing  personal tasks or wasting time; a team leader who ensures that everyone receives credit for a project well done; the subordinate who humbly takes ownership of a mistake that costs time, money, and frustration: stories such as these offer a glimpse of hope for a workplace of integrity. We believe everyone needs to demonstrate it in their lives. But how to reply to those who ask, “Why bother?” How do we convince the apathetic to embrace integrity?

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Far from being merely contemplative (valuable as that is), examining one’s own personal integrity really does help you professionally, whether you are in sales, customer service, manufacturing, or healthcare. A 2003 Financial Times article by Michael Skapinker points out that the two primary reasons for treating colleagues decently are because doing so is both right and lucrative. That article goes on to lament that here in the 21st Century advocating for treating workers well must rely on the second reason (profitability) more than the first.

Without a doubt, greedy and unjust corporations can make money. But there really are benefits, tangible and intangible, available for those that forgo greed and treat their customers and employees with integrity. Santa Clara University professors James Kouzes and Barry Posner have evidence that executives with strong core values generate five times the returns for their companies compared to those with weak character. Stephen Covey’s research showed that companies where managers and employees trusted each other beat the S&P 500 average annualized returns by a factor of three.

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Another example the Turknetts provide is from a study of the hotel chain Holiday Inn:

Researchers found that the greater the number of positive responses employees gave to such items as, “My manager delivers on promises” and “My manager practices what he preaches,” the more profitable the hotel.

Integrity can be profitable. Yet Skapinker’s lament above still rings true: It shouldn’t just be about the money, because reflecting on ethics will help you become a better human being, and that is invaluable.

With that in mind, let’s dive into a quick overview of the development of ethical teaching.