Integrity is Everything

It may take a year, five years, or decades but this is certain. It will end and it never ends well. You cannot ever allow anyone who lacks integrity into a position of leadership.  People and organizations may get away with it for some time but the bill for bad behavior always comes due.

And when it does, it is a big bill. Revenue, employees, and customers will be lost, careers will end, expensive settlements will be paid, and reputations will be ruined.  Short term gains through unethical behavior are erased by much greater long-term losses.

Unable to control themselves and having a culture that created or aided them and without any real checks and balances around them, the day will come when they will lie, take money, falsify records, or engage in sexual misconduct with employees. In leadership, they will have recruited others so now you don’t have one problem you have multiple amoral individuals working together as a team. As leaders, their personal character will become your corporate culture.

I’ve been there when they were arrested at work. I’ve seen the entire leadership suddenly “retired” by the Board of Directors who grew tired of scandals. The lawsuits pile up and the bad press never stops until you stop them. They never stop themselves.

The unethical lie to themselves first before lying to others. They think no one sees or knows what they’ve done but no one truly gets away with anything.  It may be regulatory action, litigation, bad press, angry investors, unhappy customers, or major financial losses that finally make it impossible to conceal.  It may take weeks, years, or decades.  It will come to an end and it will end badly.

Customers don’t buy from businesses they can’t trust. Vendors and partners don’t do business with companies they don’t trust. The employees you really want will never seek or stay for a career with an employer they cannot trust. Talent is important but trust is everything.

Don’t ever hire them and if you do, get them gone. To promote them is to write your organizational obituary. They are capable of taking the whole company down. Ultimately, there’s never a happy ending when you put a person without integrity into a leadership role.

Do the right thing the first time all the time. Make this your culture. Recruit, hire, train, and promote those who do. Never allow unethical behavior. Protect and sustain a culture of ethical responsibility.

The success you produce you’ll get to keep. Your reputation for integrity will be your leadership legacy and it’s the greatest legacy you can ever hope to have.

From the Teacher: Leadership Lessons with Dr. Saviak is a weekly column with the esteemed Joseph C. Saviak, Ph.D., J.D., M.A., M.S., Management Consulting & Leadership Training

Featured Image: Pintrest