What is Integrity? Beyond "I'll Know It When I See It"
What is Integrity? Beyond “I’ll Know It When I See It”
By Linda Fisher Thornton
During the recent 2014 NeuroLeadership Summit, Jamil Zaki (an Assistant Professor of Psychology at
Stanford) talked about an interesting experiment the Stanford Neuroscience Lab did. The team took a
large number of Fortune 100 statements of company values and generated a word cloud from them to
see which word would appear most often. Which word was it? Integrity was the most frequently used
word. This experiment reveals a general agreement that integrity is important, but what exactly does it
mean? People may understand it in very different ways.
The word integrity evolved from the Latin adjective integer, meaning whole or complete.
context, integrity is the inner sense of “wholeness” deriving from qualities such as honesty and
consistency of character. As such, one may judge that others “have integrity” to the extent that
they act according to the values, beliefs and principles they claim to hold.
Wikipedia, Definition of Integrity
Following this definition, integrity is the alignment of our thoughts, actions and words with our personal
values. The tricky thing about integrity in organizations is that integrity is partly internal (what we think)
and partly external (what we say and do).
When we demonstrate integrity, what we think, say and do are all aligned. But aligned with what?
I think that something that many organizations include in the concept of “integrity” is good
moral character. People with good character would be morally aware and ethically competent. This leads
me to ask some important questions: