Integrity is Priority #1

good-name

So I was speaking with some leaders about what is most important to them in their organization. 


And what was fascinating to me is that they didn’t describe the usual things…


– Leadership 


– Innovation 


– Emotional Intelligence


– Technical skills


And so on. 


Instead and in all seriousness, they spoke with me about integrity.


Integrity is what I call, doing the right thing, always!


And I was so impressed how these leaders understood that integrity is integral to their organizational culture, and is the cornerstone to it’s ultimate success in everything else it does. 


If everyone does the right thing, then the organization will do the right thing!


In the bible, we repeatedly learn the importance of following one’s moral compass. 


– In Ecclesiastes (7:1), “A good name is better than fine perfume.” 


– In Proverbs (22:1), “A good name is more desired than great wealth.”


And as in the photo above from a local synagogue, “A good name endures forever.”


What is new here though is that a good name and the integrity it takes to build that name for yourself is not just critical to your self development, but ultimately is really congruent and even synonymous with your organization’s success. 


If unfortunately some are not doing “the right thing,” we need to know about it, so we can course correct.


What we do matters not only to ourselves, but to the larger organization and community that we live in. 


Good is contagious, and it inspires more good, and this is what we want to be successful. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Heading Down The 613

613 Road

So today another amazing mystical and holy 613 (commandments in the Torah).


This one is a country road between Pennsylvania and New Jersey.


How apropos to be on the 613 road!


Tomorrow, in my next post, I hope to show you where this road is personally taking us now.


But wherever 613 leads that is where I want to be. 😉


(Source Photo: With gratitude to my dearest sister, Roz Blumenthal)

Might Does Not Make Right

Do Right
I heard from someone the other day…



“Do what is right–the others be damned!”



And this is right on the money.



You should always follow the dictates of your conscience.



Do not worry about pressure from others or what others will do that you cannot control. 



My dad (A”H) used to say:



“YOU do what is right–YOU be the example!”



He was my example, and I will always follow in his footsteps. 😉



(Source photo: here with attribution to cursedthing)

Live To Live or Live To Die?

Angel

In The New York Times today, David Brooks presents “two sets of virtues, the resume virtue and the eulogy virtue.”


The resume virtues are the skills you need to get ahead in the marketplace, and the eulogy virtues are “whether you were kind, brave, honest, or faithful.”


While we’d like to believe that most feel that being a decent human being is more important than how much money we earn, unfortunately our education and economic systems are geared far more toward the latter, where it’s widely acknowledged that “money makes the world go round!”


In fact, many will often sacrifice the moral high ground for landing on a bigger, cushier hill of worldly possessions and pleasures. 


Interestingly enough, my daughter asked me last week, whether it is better to personally live a happy life but die with a horrible reputation or to live selflessly, struggling with life challenges, but be revered after you die?


To me the answer was simple–live, learn, and grow regardless of momentary personal happiness. Do what’s right, period–honor and chivalry is alive and well. 


But my daughter told me that over 90% of people polled chose their happiness in life as their #1 goal.


I suppose it’s easy to say what’s the point of leaving a legacy if you were not happy living your life every day, but I would counter with what’s the point in chasing life’s daily pleasures, if you were a bum and everyone knows it?


The point isn’t even what people say about us when we are alive or dead, but rather that we know that we tried our best to live as decent, ethical human beings and that hopefully, we left the world a better place than when we got here.


Sure, there is no blessing in being poor or unhappy–but living purely to satisfy one’s voracious materialistic appetite is just being a selfish little pig–come on admit it!


On your deathbed, will you wish you that in your life you had more money and status or that you had been a better, more giving human being? 


I say forget the resume and the eulogy, just think about what will really gives you peace of mind and inner happiness and it’s more than any amount of money can buy or any seduction you can imagine.  😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Unjust Justice

Unjust Justice

The Wall Street Journal quotes U.S. District Judge Richard G. Kopf who offered advice to young judges, as follows:

“It’s not your job to save the world. Do law, leave justice to Clint Eastwood.”

What a notion he has–that it is not a judges job to mete out justice–how (oxy)moronic!

Instead, the judge says that is for vigilantes like Clint Eastwood’s role in Dirty Harry (or perhaps Charles Bronson in Death Wish).

While I understand that the law is the law, you would think that a judge’s role is to not only ensure that it is applied evenly, but also that it is meted out fairly.

As it says in the Torah/Bible (Deuteronomy 16:20), “Justice, Justice shall you pursue.”

It is not enough for the “justice system” to enforce laws brainlessly, but the role of the judicial branch is to interrupt the law so that justice results.

What a contrast to even the bumbling inspector, Clouseau, in the movie, The Pink Panther, who knows “Yuri, the trainer who trains,” but some of our judges don’t seem to know that they are judges who sit in judgement.

So much for “jurisprudence”–but without any prudence!

Doing law, without pursuing justice is like dehydrated water in this picture–empty and good for nothing. 😉

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Playing The Hand We Are Dealt

It’s a new year–2012–congratulations, we made it!

For the new year, I wanted to share this photo that I came across of “The World’s Largest Monopoly Game.”

To me, the most striking aspect of this photo is not the size of the game board, but that the people are actually the pieces.

So often life seems like we are pieces in a big game–as if someone is spinning the dice of life and depending on what number comes up–so goes our fortune.

But inside, I don’t really believe that–that is too fatalistic and too defeatist. At the same time, I don’t believe that we are in control of everything that happens every moment.  To me, there are larger forces at work–emanating from G-d, and we must “play” the hand we are dealt.

G-d sends us tests and trusts in life, as Rick Warren says–we do not directly control these.

The tests and trusts give us the opportunity to grow beyond what we are today, to learn life’s hard lessons, to care for others, and ultimately to elevate ourselves.

Indirectly, how we do and how well we learn life’s lessons–sometimes “hard knocks”–may influence the nature of the future tests and trusts that G-d sends us.

In Monopoly, the roll of the dice or the Chance and Community Chest cards seem to determine our fate–how many spaces we move ahead, how much we have to pay or how much we receive, or whether we end up in the proverbial Monopoly jail.  In contrast, in real life, we have the power to choose how we react to to those “chance” events–do we get angry, do we lash out, do we become defeatist or do we fight for what we want and really believe in.

For the New Year, what a great time to resolve to take back some control over lives and to not just be like human pieces in a big game of Monopoly–to choose instead to accept the tests and trusts that you are give and to do the best that you can to grow from them.

This morning, I heard Joel Osteen say on TV that we should prophesize good for ourselves, so that our words can open the door for G-d to bless us.

While, I do not think that our words of desire control what G-d does, I do believe that how we act does influence events, although not always in the way we think.

There is the age old question of why do the evil prosper and the good people suffer?  Often, I’ve heard various answers given that either we don’t really know who is good or evil, we can’t understand G-d’s plan, or the real reward and punishment is in the World to Come.

However you see it–G-d’s plan and ultimate justice–what we can constructively do is to try our best everyday and in every way–what a better plan than just circling the Monopoly board like a helpless and hapless piece in one big game.

(Source photo: here)

>Know What’s Right, Do What’s Right

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In a conversation with a good friend recently, we got to talking about integrity–the meaning and of course, the importance.

And at one point, he says straight-out, integrity takes two things:

1) Know what’s right

2) Do what’s right

And I’m loving it!

Straight-forward and simple–know and do what’s right.

Then he tells me about Gus Lee, a nationally recognized ethicist (and Chair of Character Development at the U.S. Military Academy, West Point) who wrote this book Courage: The Backbone of Leadership.

I was inspired by what I heard and since went back to learn more about his philosophy on the subject.

Lee believes that “leadership is grounded in high character” and that “we think we are looking for managers, but in fact, we need principled leaders.”

To drive our “moral courage”, Lee says we have 3 powerful resources:

1) Conscience–“that moral, inner voice.”

2) Discernment–this is where you work to discern “the higher right” getting past “fear, feelings, and wishful thinking” and of course, our own self interests.

3) Discerning Advisors–we seek the counsel of “the most courageous, high integrity, high character, and principled person or people” you know.

And I would add a fourth important resource, which is religious teachings that can be a steadfast guidepost (especially when coupled with the others as a personal litmus test of whether you are applying them correctly).

Finally, I like Lee’s observation that there are three type of individuals when it comes to issues of integrity:

1) Egotists–those who are self-serving.

2) Pragmatists–those who “serve results” or what I would call serving a specified cause.

3) People of Courage–those who “act in the right regardless.”

Doing the right thing is not easy (it means putting aside your own interests)!

That’s why it takes tremendous courage to be the type of moral person that we all ultimately admire and respect.

Those leaders who act with moral rectitude, these to me are the few and the amazing!

>Who Are You Trying To Please?

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The Guy in the Glass

by Dale Wimbrow, (c) 1934

When you get what you want in your struggle for pelf,

And the world makes you King for a day,

Then go to the mirror and look at yourself,

And see what that guy has to say.

For it isn’t your Father, or Mother, or Wife,

Who judgement upon you must pass.

The feller whose verdict counts most in your life

Is the guy staring back from the glass.

He’s the feller to please, never mind all the rest,

For he’s with you clear up to the end,

And you’ve passed your most dangerous, difficult test

If the guy in the glass is your friend.

You may be like Jack Horner and “chisel” a plum,

And think you’re a wonderful guy,

But the man in the glass says you’re only a bum

If you can’t look him straight in the eye.

You can fool the whole world down the pathway of years,

And get pats on the back as you pass,

But your final reward will be heartaches and tears

If you’ve cheated the guy in the glass.

—————————————

In grateful memory of our father, the author, Dale Wimbrow

1895-1954

>Hard On Issues, Soft on People

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There is a classic article in Harvard Business Review entitled “The Hard Work of Being A Soft Manager” (1991) by William H. Peace, which sums up “soft leadership” this way: “the stereotypical leader is a solitary tough guy, never in doubt and immune to criticism. Real leaders break that mold. They invite candid feedback and even admit they don’t have all the answers.”

The author recalls his mentor whom he says “taught me how important it is to be a flesh-and-blood human being as well as a manager. He taught me that soft qualities like openness, sensitivity, and thoughtful intelligence are at least as critical to management success as harder qualities like charisma, aggressiveness, and always being right.”

To me, there is a time and place for hard and soft leadership qualities. Leaders must be firm when it comes to driving organizational results and performing with the highest ethical conduct and integrity, but they should act with greater flexibility when it comes to open communications and collaboration with people.

I believe that leaders would be wise to follow the leadership adage of “be hard on issues and soft on people”. This means that great leaders stand up and fight for what they believe is best for their organization and they team and collaborate with their people to make results happen. In this way, leaders and their staffs are working in unity of purpose and as a genuine team, with leaders seen as human, credible and worthy of people’s dedication and hard work. To me the perfect example of this leadership style is Howard Schultz, the CEO of Starbucks who is relentless in his pursuit of a successful global coffee retailing company, but is also passionate about taking care of his diverse stakeholders from employees to coffee growers and even the environment.

In contrast dysfunctional managers are hard on people and soft on issues. They are indecisive, waiver, or are seen as subjective on business issues and this is hard on their people. Moreover, these managers let out their professional and personal frustrations on the very people that are there to support them in the enterprise. Here, leaders alienate and disenfranchise their people, fragment any semblance of teams and fail at their projects. The leaders are viewed as powerful figures that rule but do so with injustice and without meaning. An example of this failed leadership style is “Chainsaw Al” Dunlap who relentlessly cut people to cut costs, but as Slate put it (31 August 1997) “built his ‘turnarounds’ on cosmetic measures designed to prop up stock prices.”

By being unyielding in doing what is right for the mission, and acting with restraint with people, leaders can bring the best of hard and soft leadership qualities to bear in their positions.

Of course, these leadership traits must be used appropriately in day-to-day situations. Leaders should be hard on issues, but know when to throttle back so business issues can be worked through with stakeholders and change can evolve along with organizational readiness. Similarly, leaders should be soft on people, but know when to throttle up to manage performance or conduct issues, as necessary. In this way, hard and soft qualities are guidelines and not rules for effective leadership, and leaders will act appropriately in every situation.

>Speaking with Integrity

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At work, there is often a lot more talking going on than just work issues. There is the office politics and the chatter about staff, colleagues, management, stakeholders, and so on.

“Oh by the way, have you heard what John said to Mary this week?”

Rumors easily get started about office indiscretions, “dumb mistakes,” bad decisions, injustices, nepotism, and even office romances.

Yeah, it goes on everyday.

Some of it is true, but more often than not, a lot is exaggerated, taken out of context, only one side of the story, or just plain B.S.—but for many, it makes for interesting conversation nonetheless.

Speech is a true gift. It enables us to easily communicate with each other and to share feelings, thoughts, and form meaningful relationships.

But speech is also something that needs to be guarded, because words misused or abused can hurt others—their feelings, their reputation, their future prospects, and even their basic human dignity.

There is an old saying that G-d gave us two ears and one mouth, so that we could listen twice as much as we speak. In other words, our speech should be carefully thought and wisely used.

I remember this Talmudic story going something like this…there are various parts of the body arguing about which is the most important—the legs said without me you couldn’t walk, and the eyes say without me you could not see, and so on and so forth. But the mouth says, I am the most important because with just one (or a couple of) word(s), I can get you in trouble and even killed. And sure enough, on some pretense the man is called before the king and from the man’s mouth comes some insulting words to the king who orders that the man be executed for his insolence.

Indeed our words are very important—they can harm and they can heal.

I was reminded of this just recently, a young adult was telling me that a boy in her high school class made fun of her “in front of everybody” and she broke out crying—deeply hurt and humiliated. Sometimes, these are the events that can scar a person long after the event is over and seemingly forgiven and forgotten. Perhaps, this was just another person’s insensitivity or their misguided thinking that they are elevating themselves by putting down someone else, but either way, their words cut like a knife.

I ran into another example of this recently, when I heard of a Star-Trek fan who questioned whether artificial intelligence (e.g., like the character Data) could be considered human, “just like Jews and Blacks.” Whatever the intent, it was a shockingly racist and hurtful use of language.

Words can and do hurt others, and people should be careful with their speech as well as with their actions.

On this topic, I read this week in the Wall Street Journal (6 January 2009) about a movement to get people to stop gossiping—like the Jewish prohibition against lashon harah (evil language).

Essentially the mantra for better speech is kind/true/necessary. Before we say something, we should ask ourselves:

· Is it kind?

· Is it true?

· Is it necessary?

And “every word we utter should pass through [these] three gates.”

One organization called WordsCanHeal.org advocates for this and asks that people take a pledge, as follows:“I will try to replace words that hurt with words that encourage, engage, and enrich.”

This is a great and worthwhile endeavor for us all in the workplace and in our personal lives.