How Do You Build Integrity? Start with Where It’s Lacking

September 14, 2012 / General /

By Robert E. Quinn

“You build integrity by constantly monitoring your lack of integrity,” Bill Torbert wrote. I included this quotation in one of my books, and I was pleased when a man I was having breakfast with last week repeated it. My breakfast companion is someone who approaches his professional work with managers from a rather spiritual point of view. During our two-hour conversation, he elaborated on the importance and difficulty of recognizing the absence of integrity and taking steps to restore it.

He recalled being with his daughter on a train many years ago. When he spotted a colleague in their car, he and the colleague began speaking about the topic of integrity. Even as he did so, he learned a long time later, his daughter was writing a poem about his lack of integrity. She kept it for years after, and when she told him she did not want him in her life, she shared the poem.

I pointed out that no one recognizes our hypocrisy more than our own children do. Unfortunately, my son, who was with us, was glad to confirm my observation. The three of us began talking about the endless process of purification and pollution.

My associate then told us that when his daughter confronted him, he embarked on an extensive process of self-change. He approached it mentally, spiritually, and physically. He did everything he could to respond to the feedback she had given him.

I told him this was one of the most impressive stories I have heard. What are the implications of his story? How might it be of value in your world?