Integrity and Honor

[ H=Heart | Index | J=Joviality ]

Series: The ABC’s of Professionalism

A familiar story with a new sequel every two years, cheating Olympians, completely baffles me. Why are certain athletes willing to trade their integrity for an Olympic medal? Why are certain coaches and/or trainers willing to look the other way or even aid and abet? Don’t they realize that wearing a gold medal and being an Olympic champion are not equivalent? There is no victory in cheating.

“Winning is nice if you don’t lose your integrity in the process.” — attributed to Arnold Horshak, character in the television sitcom “Welcome Back, Kotter”

“…a gold medal is a wonderful thing. But if you’re not enough without one, you’ll never be enough with one.” — from the Disney movie “Cool Runnings”

Playing by the rules is more than sportsmanship. It is a reflection of honesty: honesty toward others and honesty with one’s self. And isn’t honesty at the heart of integrity? There’s another integrity aspect: having and following a “moral compass.”

“Integrity means adopting a morally strong value system and having the honesty, courage and conviction to live and act within these values.” — Clancy Cross

This definition leads to two thoughts. First, integrity is an inside job, which means it’s a personal decision.

“We choose what attitudes we have right now. And it’s a continuing choice.” — John C. Maxwell

“The greatest day in your life and mine is when we take total responsibility for our attitudes. That’s the day we truly grow up.” — John C. Maxwell

Second, integrity is so important to building and maintaining relationships that a person’s greatest gift may be to live a life of integrity that inspires and encourages others to raise their standards and commitment to integrity. Ideally, an integrity foundation is built in the home during the formative childhood years and is forever nurtured by teachers, pastors, friends, colleagues and others.

“The reward for doing right is mostly an internal phenomenon: self-respect, dignity, integrity, and self- esteem.” — Dr. Laura Schlessinger

“Live so that when your children think of fairness and integrity, they think of you.” — H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

“The righteous man walks in his integrity; His children are blessed after him.” — Bible, Proverbs 20:7

“The effect of one upright individual is incalculable.” — Oscar Arias

“The greatest way to live with honor in this world is to be what we pretend to be.” — Socrates

This ideal picture of integrity breaks down because inevitably, moral and ethical principles will be violated. The realization that human perfection is unachievable is not a new revelation. So, how can there be integrity when everyone commits violations against his own principles? It would seem that the only logical alternative for avoiding universal hypocrisy is to adopt a personal philosophy devoid of moral principles. Some would say “moral relativism” is an attempt to do just that. (That’s a topic for another day.) Actually, the paradox dissolves when we fully understand the final piece of integrity.

“Honor isn’t about making the right choices. It’s about dealing with the consequences.” — Midori Koto

How does a person of integrity respond to his own moral failings? First, he makes a humble admission of and apology for the offense, totally free of excuses. Conversely, “I’m sorry I did it, but …” is hardly an effective confession. Second, the person of integrity takes ownership of the consequences and makes appropriate reparations. Finally, integrity demands a commitment to do better. After that, the rest is up to those who were offended. Will they forgive? Will they hold a grudge? Whatever the aggrieved party decides, a person of the highest integrity will accept the verdict with grace and move on.

Humility is what allows integrity to survive moral indiscretions. Even so, it’s important to realize that it takes more time to develop integrity than to destroy it and even more time to restore it when it is damaged. While Integrity has some room for errors, just one momentary indiscretion has the potential to be a major setback against a lifetime of progress. This implies that people serious about their integrity should behave as if any violation will destroy it and when necessary, respond with humility and urgency to restore it.

“Honor is like a steep island without a shore: one cannot return once one is outside.” — Nicholas Boileau-Despréaux

“Character is much easier kept than recovered.” — Thomas Paine, author, statesman

“To thine own self be true, and it must follow, as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man.” — William Shakespeare

Life without integrity is a miserable and pathetic existence. So, in a sense, hanging on to integrity is a matter of life and death.

“What is left when honor is lost?” — Publilius Syrus (~100 BC), Maxims

“Educate your children to self-control, to the habit of holding passion and prejudice and evil tendencies subject to an upright and reasoning will, and you have done much to abolish misery from their future and crimes from society.” — Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790)

God bless,

— CC

[ H=Heart | Index | J=Joviality ]

© Copyright September 2008, Clancy Cross. All rights reserved.
Read more “Clancy’s Quotes” at: ClancyCross.WordPress.com

Professional Behavior

[ A=Attitude | Index | C=Conversation ]

Series: The ABC’s of Professionalism

Professionalism requires the development of both professional attitudes and behaviors. The starting point really doesn’t matter as long as the professional development program includes both aspects. You aren’t a professional unless you both think AND act like one.

Professional behavior is the sum of lots of little simple acts. The role of parents and teachers is to get children started with some of the basics. Hopefully the purpose of their behavior training is not just to keep the kids quiet, but to establish a baseline and a growth pattern that will mature into attitudes of professionalism.

“Behavior is what a man does, not what he thinks, feels, or believes” — Unknown

It’s never too early to develop habits of good behavior. When someone acquires a position that demands professionalism, he’d better have a solid base of professional behavior because every subsequent action will be judged accordingly. Continual practice is needed to reinforce, improve and refine both behaviors and attitudes – they feed off one another.

Your GPS

People will form judgments about others with little regard for time or place. Nine-to-five professionals will soon be discovered for the actors they are. There’s a term for people who treat professional behavior as something that can be checked in and out at the door. They’re called hypocrites.

“O, what may man within him hide, Though angel on the outward side!” — William Shakespeare

“Go put your creed into your deed.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

Does becoming a professional sound like a lot of hard work? Let’s do some analysis starting with a few more questions.

  • Does it take more effort to say, “You’re welcome!” than to say, “No problem!”
  • Is it really any harder to open the door for someone else before entering than to open it just for yourself?
  • Which sequence requires less effort? A) Taking a bite, talking, chewing, swallowing; or B) Taking a bite, chewing, swallowing, talking?
  • Does it require less work to arrive late than on time?
  • Which requires greater effort, remaining quiet or blurting out an angry response?

“Do thou restrain the haughty spirit in thy breast, for better far is gentle courtesy.” — Homer

Unquestionably it takes work to learn and develop new habits. But after that, the effort between professional and unprofessional behavior would appear to be roughly the same. So, if you are going to do something anyway, why not learn to do it professionally? I propose that professional behavior might even require less effort in the long run because it produces a more positive result, which reduces stress, which in turn is an easier road.

These rules of the game, though they may vary among professions and cultures, are intended to pave a better road for human interaction among friends and strangers alike. Such customs are usually rooted in matters of character such as: compassion, respect, humility and gratitude.

“There is a courtesy of the heart; it is allied to love. From it springs the purest courtesy in the outward behavior.” — Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832)

“Gratitude is the most exquisite form of courtesy.” — Jacques Maritain (1882-1973), Reflections on America, 1958

“The greater man the greater courtesy.” — Alfred Lord Tennyson (1809-1892)

The characteristics of a professional are so similar to those of a leader that professionalism and leadership are essentially the same thing. They consist of the same attitudes and are demonstrated by the same behaviors. If they are not exactly the same, they are certainly inextricable. Leaders exude professionalism; Professionals exude leadership.

God bless,

— CC

[ A=Attitude | Index | C=Conversation ]

© Copyright August 2008, Clancy Cross. All rights reserved.
Read more “Clancy’s Quotes” at: ClancyCross.WordPress.com

Character and Leadership

People form their core life principles in different ways. Those who believe in the God of the Christian faith hold certain moral and theological principles as taught and exemplified by Jesus Christ. Many adopt their principles from other gods. Still others believe mankind defines such principles through experience and human reasoning.

Another word for principle is “value.” Whatever values people embrace become the foundation of their intentions and actions. People are judged by what they say and do as well as through what they don’t say and don’t do. To the extent that someone is consistent with his values he is judged as faithful; lack of consistency results in the dreaded label “hypocrite.”

“Many of us believe that wrongs aren’t wrong if it’s done by nice people like ourselves.” — Author Unknown

“Many a man’s reputation would not know his character if they met on the street.” — Elbert Hubbard

Clarity and commitment are important when it comes to principles. Being unsure or uncommitted to a principle makes decision-making more difficult.

“When your values are clear to you, making decisions becomes easier.” — Roy Disney, executive

“Those are my principles. If you don’t like them I have others.” — Groucho Marx

When principles have a moral element the terminology is often changed to “character.” Having good character is defined as “consistently acting in accordance with good moral principles.”

“The truth of the matter is that you always know the right thing to do. The hard part is doing it.” — Norman Schwarzkopf

“The time is always right to do what is right.” — Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Character is an indispensable part of leadership. Making the types of decisions leaders are expected to make is utterly dependent on the leader’s character. Good leadership proceeds from good character. Character is to leadership as hydrogen is to water. How many more ways can I say it? Good character is the foundation of leadership.

Good leaders not only gain followers because of their good character, they also pass on their legacy of good character. The result is a new generation of leaders.

“Let those who follow me continue to build with the plumb of honor, the level of truth, and the square of integrity, education, courtesy and mutuality.” — John Wanamaker

“Children are not casual guests in our home. They have been loaned to us temporarily for the purpose of loving them and instilling a foundation of values on which their future lives will be built.” — Dr. James C. Dobson

Establishing strong moral character within the foundations of our personal and business relationships results in leaders who make a positive difference in this world. It doesn’t require a Ph.D. in compassion or a Master’s Degree in philanthropy or any special skill. Leadership potential lives within everyone.

“How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.” — Anne Frank

What it takes is a personal decision and a commitment to building character, from the inside out. Each decision moves one closer to or farther from the person he’s supposed to become. Decide today whom you will follow. Decide today to feed your mind every day. Decide today not to sacrifice integrity for convenience. Decide to be different so you can make a difference.

“A people that values its privileges above its principles soon loses both.” — Dwight D. Eisenhower

God bless,

— CC

© Copyright August 2008, Clancy Cross. All rights reserved.
Read more “Clancy’s Quotes” at: ClancyCross.WordPress.com