The Internet definition of integrity is: “The quality of being honest and having strong moral principles; moral uprightness.” Another source identifies integrity as: ‘The characteristic of behaving and thinking congruently with one’s personal values and beliefs. Put another way, integrity is doing what you believe to be right, irrespective of the costs, downside, hardships involved.’
For purposes of this article, I will incorporate the Partner Advancing Character Education definition of integrity which is: “Living a set of values which includes honesty, respect for others and a sense of personal responsibility.” This definition defines me as a person and the manner in which I run my company, Dishman Dodge Ram Chrysler Jeep.
Having a high level of integrity is one of the most important characteristics a person can possess and is important in every aspect of an individual’s life. Integrity comes into play in everything we think and do; it’s everything we are in every facet of our lives – personal, academic and professional. It takes having the courage to do the right thing, no matter what the consequences will be.
People who demonstrate integrity draw others to them because they are trustworthy and dependable. Their values, beliefs, and character speak loudly through their behavior. Having integrity means being truthful and honest. It means being reliable. It means trying to build rather than trying to break, help rather than hurt, connect rather than crumble. Possessing integrity means being authentic – yourself – whether people are watching or not.
This does not mean a person with integrity is perfect; it means a person having integrity will step up. An individual with integrity will accept responsibility for their actions, have remorse, and have an understanding of what went wrong and why it happened so they can put a plan in place to ensure it won’t happen again.
There is a dynamic relationship between integrity and ethics where each strengthens, or reinforces, the other. An organization’s success depends on the integrity of its employees. A person who has worked diligently to develop a high standard of integrity will likely transfer these principles to their professional life. Possessing a high degree of integrity, a person’s word and deeds will be in alignment with the ethical standards of the organization. Personal integrity is the foundation for ethics – good business ethics encourages integrity.
Building a reputation of integrity takes years, but it takes only a second to lose, so a business must never allow anything to happen that would damage its integrity. Employers value employees who maintain a sense of honesty and integrity above all else. Good relationships are built on trust. Successful businesses work to gain the trust of customers and it is the responsibility of each employee to use their own individual sense of moral and ethical behavior when working with and serving others within the scope of their job.
It is essential that a business have a written set of guidelines as an internal system of principles that guides the behavior of its workers and management. These principles will help them conduct their actions in accordance with the company’s values and ethical standards. Severe problems result in the personal, professional and political arena when anyone, at any level, acts without integrity. When an organization’s reputation is damaged, there ensues a tragic loss of both customers and good employees.
The core principles of integrity are virtues such as: compassion, dependability, generosity, honesty, kindness, loyalty, maturity, objectivity, respect, trust and wisdom. In addition are Citizenship, Caring, Fairness, Courage and Gratitude – the PACE Character Traits not already referred to in this article. Virtues are the valuable personal and professional assets employees develop and bring to work each day. The sum of all virtues equals integrity.
Marti Hollenback is dealer principal/President of Dishman Dodge Ram Chrysler Jeep in Spokane Valley. She started in the automotive business managing the family dealership in 1995, after a 25-year career as a registered nurse. Hollenback serves on the PACE Board, is a Valley Hospital Trustee, the Washington State Director of the National Automobile Dealers Association, and on the Executive Committee and Board of the Washington State Automobile Dealers Association. She was recently named the Harry E. Nelson “Citizen of the Year” by the Greater Spokane Valley Chamber of Commerce.