Integrity Wins, but Who is Interested?
In a world where it is more fashionable to fit in than stand out, who will walk the tightrope that is integrity? The Bible says in Proverbs 10:9, “One who walks in integrity walks securely but one who perverts his ways will be found out.” It is the sure way to safety, but few are ready to pay the cost of integrity, many, like the proverbial African pot, would rather “surrender their buttocks to the fire” rather than risk losing face or friends. James Toole quotes Richard Carter’s book Integrity outlining the prerequisites for having integrity and virtues in speaking truth to power. Carter outlines the criteria or threshold for “speaking truth to power” conversation passing the test for integrity and virtues as, truthfulness; harmless to the innocents; not self-serving or stemming from self-interest; must not be the product of moral reflection; must not be done out of spite or anger, and the messenger must be willing to pay the price.
James O’Toole, a research professor in the center for effective organization at the University of Southern California writes about the importance of the culture of candor in which people can speak out to leadership as fundamental to corporate success. The employees should feel free to talk to the leadership without being intimidated and confident enough to speak without fearing reprisal from the leaders. O’Toole says that this is a delicate task of speaking to leadership, but where it is promoted, it promotes mutual trust and respect, leading to corporate success. This promise should be a motivator for creating such a culture of candor, but this does not seem to be a natural pursuit for leaders. Some leaders may not feel secure enough and often find it to hide their weaknesses while only fronting their areas of strength. According to Simon Walker in his book, “leading out of Whom You Are: Discovering the Secret of The Undefended Leader,” only secure leaders, whom he refers to as “the undefended leader:” can have the security to create a culture of candor that encourages employees to speak to their leaders. Such leaders have nothing to hide. While it’s widely known that speaking truth to power is not a common practice, there are great examples of people who have been bold enough to speak out in public despite the cost they had to pay. Anita Hill wrote a book, Speaking Truth to power, in 1998 as a candid autobiography of her experience of testifying at the 1991 Clarence Thomas Supreme Court Nomination hearing, giving details of her professional relationship with Clarence Thomas, giving her motivation for going public with her sexual harassment accusations against Thomas. Others had to pay the ultimate price for speaking truth to power, like Martin Luther King Junior in the USA and Dietrich Bonhoeffer in Nazi Germany. Speaking truth to power threatens those in power who are not secure, and they will fight back to keep their power or defend their position.
One can easily assume that this absence of the culture of candor is only in corporate organizations, but this may not necessarily be the case. Even in church circles, this is a challenge, and criticism is not always taken positively. As Christian leaders, we should lead by example both in the market place and in the church circles. Just as there are cases quoted in political circles and corporate organizations, the church is not short of cases where sexual harassment is only heard when a leader is no longer in a position of power. Such cases reported after the person is not in power are not a case of integrity and virtue, and some are driven by vendetta and malice. Integrity is an important character trait that marks out great leaders with nothing to hide or fear. They lead with authenticity and with courage and will always produce great results. The most outstanding example of a man of integrity is in the Bible in the person of Joseph when he was tested to sleep with the wife of his master Potiphar. The Bible says, in Genesis 39:7-9 that Joseph refused to sin against his God and would not give, even when it cost him his freedom. We also have the example of Daniel, who excelled in integrity to the point where no failure was found in him. Daniel, in his integrity, was able to speak truth to power when he interpreted the dreams to the king, even when the dreams were not favorable to kings. In both cases, the integrity of these leaders earned them the right to speak truth to power, and interestingly enough, their integrity earned them promotions and the right to lead others. Christian leaders must note that integrity in our leadership is key to building trust from our followers and the right to influence them as leaders. Leaders who lack integrity will quickly lose the trust and respect of their followers and will not succeed. People have more faith in leaders they can trust because of their integrity than charismatic leaders they cannot trust. Everyone is on the lookout for leaders of integrity and gifted leaders. The Bible is very concise in promoting integrity in Proverbs 11:2, “The integrity of the upright will guide them, but the perversity of the treacherous will destroy them.”
 Carter, Stephen L. Integrity. (New York, NY, USA. Harper Collins, 1996).
 O’Toole, James. “Speaking Truth to Power: A White Paper,” Markula Center for Applied Ethics, Last Modified October 15, 2015, https://www.scu.edu/ethics/focus-areas/business-ethics/resources/speaking-truth-to-power-a-white-paper/.
 Simon Walker. Leading out of Who You Are: Discovering the Secret of The Undefended Leader. (Carlisle, Cumbria, ENGLAND. Piquant Editions, 2010).
 Hill, Anita. Speaking Truth to power. (New York, NY, USA. Doubleday Books, 1998).
 James Deotis Roberts. Bonhoeffer and King: Speaking Truth to Power. (Westminster, London, UK. John Knox Press, 2005).
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