Leaders are made, not born. They create and develop themselves by becoming men and women of fine character and integrity.
Earl Nightingale once wrote, “If honesty did not exist, it would have to be invented, as it is the surest way of getting rich.” A study at Harvard University concluded that the most valuable asset that a company has is how it is known to its customers — its reputation, especially for honesty and quality.
Integrity is Essential
By the same token, your greatest personal asset is the way that you are known to others. It is your personal reputation for keeping your word and fulfilling your commitments. Your integrity precedes you and affects all of your interactions with other people.
A key to developing integrity and character in yourself is to study men and women of great character. Study the lives and stories of people like George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Winston Churchill, Florence Nightingale, Susan B. Anthony and Margaret Thatcher. Study the people whose strength of character enabled them to change their world. As you read, think about how they would behave if they were facing the difficulties that you face.
You can do the same thing they would do. Select someone that you very much admire for their qualities of courage, tenacity, honesty, or wisdom. Ask yourself, “What would Jesus do in my situation?” or, “What would Lincoln do if he were here at this time?” You will find yourself receiving guidance that enables you to be the very best person that you can possible be.
There are three areas of your life where acting with integrity is crucial. These are the three areas of greatest temptation for forsaking your integrity, as well as the areas of greatest opportunity for building your integrity.
The first area of integrity has to do with your relationships with your family and your friends, the people close to you. Being true to yourself means living in truth with each person in your life. It means refusing to say or do something that you don’t believe is right. Living in truth with other people means that you refuse to stay in any situation where you are unhappy with the behavior of another person. You refuse to tolerate it. You refuse to compromise.
The second area of integrity has to do with your attitude and behavior toward money. Casualness toward money brings casualties in your financial life. You must be fastidious about your treatment of money, especially other people’s money. You must guard your credit rating the same way you would guard your honor. You must pay your bills punctually, or even early. You must keep your promises with regard to your financial commitments.
The third area of integrity has to do with your commitments to others, especially in your business, your work and your sales activities. Always keep your word. Be a man or a woman of honor. If you say that you will do something, do it. If you make a promise, keep it. If you make a commitment, fulfill it. Be known as the kind of person that can be trusted absolutely, no matter what the circumstances.
Your integrity is manifested in your willingness to adhere to the values you hold most dear. It’s easy to make promises and hard to keep them, but if you do, every single act of integrity will make your character a little stronger. And as you improve the quality and strength of your character, every other part of your life will improve as well.
Now, here are three steps you can take immediately to put these ideas into action.
First, identify men and women of great character, whom you admire, and read their life stories. Think of how you could apply the lessons they learned to your own life.
Second, analyze your key relationships regularly and resolve to live in truth with the most important people in your life.
Third, keep your word. Keep your promises and commitments. Always do what you say you will do and guard your integrity as a sacred thing.