The actress Felicity Huffman, shown at a 2010 benefit, is one of the parents who will plead guilty to a federal crime, part of an investigation of college admissions fraud. (Credit: Flickr)
The actress Felicity Huffman, shown at a 2010 benefit, is one of the parents who will plead guilty to a federal crime, part of an investigation of college admissions fraud. (Credit: Flickr)

With the college admissions scandal in the headlines, the issue of honesty and integrity in business couldn’t be more relevant.

How you conduct yourself in your personal life translates into what happens in running your business.

So let’s look at how integrity and honesty are essential leadership qualities and how you can best display them.

[Related: 9 Leadership Traits of Women Entrepreneurs]

Importance of integrity

survey a few years ago found that integrity was cited by employees as the most important attribute in a leader. Employees get inspired by leaders they view as being honest. Conversely, they get turned off, and often leave companies, where they see leaders lacking integrity.

Integrity also translates into rewards with customers. People will do business with you only if they trust you. Customers must be confident that you aren’t trying to pull a fast one and are telling them the truth.

Maintaining integrity

It’s easy to be honest when things are going well. But when you get into inconvenient situations, maintaining integrity becomes hard. And some people have grown accustomed to “fudging” (e.g., exaggerating billable hours or expenses reported on an expense account); they don’t even recognize this as dishonest.

To maintain your own integrity and ensure that integrity pervades your workplace, consider doing the following:

  • Commit to integrity. You can demonstrate this through a mission, vision, or value statement affirming the company’s dedication to ethical behavior. For example, American Express’ list of core values says: “We uphold the highest standards of integrity in all of our actions.” Make employees and customers aware of the company’s position.
  • Lead by example. Owners must show their integrity so that employees will follow suit. Words to axe from your vocabulary are cheating, lying, and admittedly compromising your principles. Words to keep in the forefront are truth, sincerity, transparency and accountability.
  • Manage ethical problems wisely.Expect that you’ll be faced with ethical problems you’ll be forced to deal with. You want to handle them with integrity. A good resource for this is an article from the Free Management Library.
Final thought

In the words of Mary Kay Ash, founder of Mary Kay Cosmetics: “Integrity is the ingredient that will enable you to forge rapidly ahead on the highway that leads to success. It advertises you as being an individual who will always come through. Whatever you say you will do, do it even if you have to move heaven and earth.”

Barbara Weltman is the founder of Big Ideas for Small Business, Inc., which publishes Idea of the Day. She is the author of J.K. Lasser’s Small Business Taxes 2019 and other books that inform the small business community of tax, financial, and legal information they should know about. 

[Related: 5 Tips for Delegating, When You’re Finally Done With Micromanagement]

Editor’s Note: The Story Exchange is celebrating its 10th anniversary by launching the annual Women In Science Incentive Prize. Apply now for a chance to receive $5,000 in funding for your climate-related research or startup. Deadline: July 31. 

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