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Business Integrity Counts in Leadership

Forget signing a code of ethics, taking training on business integrity or appointing an ethics committee. Let your life be what you want the people you lead to have.

Integrity is what you do when those whom you lead are not watching. It is the life you live based on your briefs and behavior, in words and actions. Your integrity influences your thoughts, decisions, actions and relationships with others. It is the glue that will make people want to work with you for something money can?t buy.

A story is told of a business owner who noticed that there were two extra boxes of oranges that were included in his order. The labels on the two extra boxes were relatively easy to remove. It happened that his three employees were with him when he received the boxes. Without saying a word, the business owner immediately removed the labels and ordered his workers to mix the two boxes with the previous week?s order.

That afternoon, while the owner and his employees were meeting at his office, he received a call from the orange distributor. All his employees heard him say was, ?No, there weren?t two extra boxes with today?s order. Feel free to send someone to our store, if you wish. Come and see if any of the boxes have the kind of labels you are talking about.?

A few years later, as he was preparing to close his store because of the lack of stock, it occurred to him that his stock started declining a few days after he showed his employees what to do with the ?Two Extra Boxes.?

The reality is, when a leader cuts corners, some of the people he/she leads are likely to either cut the corners they have learned from their leader or cut other corners based on their own ?creativity.?

As a youth in Kenya, Africa, I came to understand one important aspect of life: What we do for ourselves can get us by; what we do for others is what gets us ahead, whether in our profession, spiritual pursuits or relationships.

One?s integrity, character and values are products of many factors. The little I have of these great attributes come mostly from my mother. She was a natural teacher of character and integrity. Here is an incident that brings my mother?s teachings into focus.

My mother made me take back a puppy that I thought belonged to me. My action was considered unethical by my mother, even though I maintained that it was a moral move.

When the puppy?s mother was pregnant, Maria, a nurse in my community and owner of an exotic bred dog and I agreed on what I was to do in exchange for a puppy. I was to provide her pregnant dog with food that I savaged from butcheries and corn mill factories. I religiously kept my promise, rain or shine, as I dug through trash bins.

After feeding the nursing dog for about eight weeks, I humbly asked Maria if I could take my puppy, the smallest of all, home. She skillfully asked me to come another day. After two other visits and no puppy to take home, I convinced myself that I was entitled to the puppy. While Maria was inside her house, I took the puppy and went home.

My mother was happy to see me come home with the puppy. She knew that I had been providing the puppy?s mother with food. Two weeks passed by with nothing said by Maria. Then one day my mother, who was supposed to have gone to the local market, showed up unexpectedly. When she said, ?Muli, I need to talk to you,? I knew the days of silence about how I took the puppy were over.

Even after my detailed explanation, my mother could not let me keep that dog. She made me take it back. This was double punishment. I had sweat enough planning and executing my plan to own the puppy. Now I had to sweat again to disown it. That trip to Maria?s home, about a mile and a half, still remains one of those experiences better forgotten.

From the way Maria looked, I could tell she felt guilty for not honoring our agreement. The drops of sweat and my lack of words to explain why I had taken the puppy without permission betrayed the depth of my guiltiness. The vow I had made, to stand my ground of moral purity, was not evident. After what seemed like eternity, Maria saw the situation from my perspective and let me take the puppy home with me.

My mother always wanted me to be a good example for my siblings.

Top tips on basic practices that reflects a leader?s integrity

1. Strife to delivery exceptional customer service.
2. Accomplish what you promise, with dignity and on time.
3. Use the expertise of others in areas where you are weak
4. If, for any reason, you are unable to do a project as expected, make an effort to discuss the situation with all parties and offer honest suggestions.
5. If a project is not within your expertise and time constraints don?t allow you to learn and perform to a customer?s expectation, say NO and help the customer get a qualified person for the job.
6. Treat others the way you would want to be treated if you were in their situation.
7. Do your best to keep a clear conscience...it is the most soft bed.
8. Refrain from twisting the truth, taking bribes or showing partiality.
9. Guard your decisions, actions and accountability so you can always take the high way.
10. Ask the wisdom of others who have been in your position

The mark of a great leader is his/her way of life with or without anything to gain. The greatest gain or pay is when a business thrives and individuals live up to their potential because the leader used his/her talents, gift? and experiences to make a difference.

Your integrity will provide with the stability, protection and guidance that are critical in moving ahead without leaving your peace behind. It will enable you to associate with people of high moral values who direct their vendors and customers to your products and/or services.

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