Blog, Leadership, People


W. Clement Stone said:

“Have the courage to say no. Have the courage to face the truth. Do the right thing because it is right. These are the magic keys to living your life with integrity.”

Integrity. One of the most powerful words in the English language and something that you either have or you don’t.  I don’t believe a person can have ‘some’ integrity…its an all or nothing thing.

Integrity is defined by Merriam-Webster as a “firm adherence to a code of ethical values”…not a ‘wishy-washy adherence to values’ or ‘an adherence to values when you feel like it’.  A FIRM adherence to values.

Why am I talking about Integrity on a blog about Aligning Technology, Strategy, People and Projects?  Well…its fits into the context of the blog…and because I want to 🙂  It’s also a topic I’ve talked about before and have listed it as one of my Five Simple Traits of Leadership where I say this about Integrity :

Integrity is the first and probably most important Leadership trait. Without integrity, there are no other truths nor is there a base to lead from. When most people think of integrity, they think of honesty or ethics, however, integrity means so much more than just being honest. Integrity also means having the character that allows you to live your life according to your values, ethics and standards. Integrity breeds honesty, which breeds trust. If you, your partner, manager, or CEO don’t have an understanding of what integrity is, then they really don’t understand leadership.

A few recent occurrences have caused this topic to bubble back up to the top of my pea-sized brain again.

  • Merrill D. Young, a teacher and city councilman in Wylie, TX (where I live) used a ‘degree’ from a Concordia University and College (a diploma mill and a ‘degree’ listed as illegal in the state of Texas) to obtain a job as a teacher (More info here).  When this information was discovered (accidentally by me) and submitted to the authorities (by me), he was confronted with it and he quickly resigned as a teacher (the right thing to do) but then immediately began to get defensive and point fingers at others.  Rather than admit that he had been duped by a diploma mill (I am assuming his using a fake degree was not a willful action), he has tried to change the conversation from him using a fake degree to being a victim of a political witch hunt.
  • Robert Willumstad, the former CEO of American International Group (AIG) refused to accept a $22 million severance package that was rightfully his.  His reasoning was that since he wasn’t able to enact his restructuring plan and because shareholders and AIG have lost so much money, it wouldn’t be right to accept a severance.

Which would you say is an example of integrity?  Out of the 2, I’d pick Robert Willumstad myself.

Of course, It could be  argued that Mr Willumstad isn’t necessarily displaying integrity here.  Instead, it could be argued that he is displaying political acuity by realizing there could be a significant backlash if he were to walk away from a failing corporation with $22 million of what could be taxpayers money.

This said, I’m going to assume that the reason Mr Willumstad refused the severance is because he has integrity just like I’ve assumed that Mr Young did not use a fake degree in a willful attempt to defraud the Wylie Independent School District and the Citizens of Wylie.

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About Eric D. Brown, D.Sc.

Eric D. Brown, D.Sc. is a data scientist, technology consultant and entrepreneur with an interest in using data and technology to solve problems. When not building cool things, Eric can be found outside with his camera(s) taking photographs of landscapes, nature and wildlife.
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14 years ago

Integrity- This is another of the most important leadership traits and, in my experience, is one of the most misunderstood and ineffectively implemented leadership trait.. The meaning of integrity means that you are honest and truthful in what you say.

jeff 'SKI' Kinsey
15 years ago


May I suggest you take a page from my book: simply call Mr. Willumstad and ask him?


P.S. I am interested to hear his answer.

Eric D. Brown
15 years ago

Good point. Perhaps I’ll try just that.