In this journey of life, my honesty, no, integrity is tested countless times, and while most of the time I win, sometimes I fail.
The world is evolving fast, and every day we are bombarded with new developments in every sphere of life – right from our homes, on the roads and at the workplace. From the time we wake to the time we retire to bed, my integrity is tested countless times, and while most of the time I win, sometimes I fail. Recently, I was having a chat with a friend of mine on the issue of integrity. Our country’s morality is sinking to the extent that our children may never know what it means to be morally upright.
Three Awful Wrongs
My friend confessed that as a Christian, it had become very difficult for her to stand firm. She narrated to me how the previous week, she had to pick an urgent call from a colleague while driving and she bumped into a traffic cop. She went speechless, felt stupid and cursed at the top of her mind? Just like that, her day and all the programmes got ruined. She asked herself many questions, you know those stupid, or rather out of these world questions that do not really offer a solution but give instant scapegoats? As her breath raced to and fro, a big lie swamped through her mind. “Just tell this cop that you have an emergency in the house, and that your child has been hurt and you just had to make this call.” She did exactly that – but deep down inside of her – her heart was bleeding. This may have sounded like just the right lie for this bad situation, but it was the worst of all lies. Infact, all lies are evil; there are no good and bad lies. But, what if the lie turned out to be real, and she had to face the consequences? See, as a mother, when your child gets hurt, and cries uncontrollably, everything in your life gets distorted – from your sleeping pattern, eating regime, work programme, church – just name it. A mother’s life will revolve around a sick child. Telling lies to salvage a situation was just another unpleasant wrong, on top of the first one. And, as with all traffic cops in Kenya, you do not break the law, and get off the hook because of a situation that requires sympathy. She still had to part with a few hundreds of shillings to be allowed time to go sort her ‘emergency’. Again, a third wrong was added into the already unfavourable equation.
Integrity is more than mere honesty
An article by Andrew Leigh, Director of Maynard Leigh Associates, London, UK titled Integrity: Are your leaders up to it notes that integrity is more than mere honesty. Winning the integrity test is also about morality; it is more than just being honest and staying within the law. This is a key lesson for all leaders and those aspiring for leadership positions.
A test on honesty
Recently, I got an opportunity to be part of an interview panel for a key position in a leading learning institution in Kenya. One of the questions on the leadership segment touched on integrity. This is a common interview question in Kenya, a country that was ranked position 143 out of 180 in the world corruption index by Transparency International (TI) in early 2018. There was a marginal improvement from position 145 the previous year.
Living in such a society where leaders thrive in corruption, and where there is no proper law enforcement to curb the malpractice in Kenya, leaves one very vulnerable. You have to be alert at all times, lest dishonesty becomes your way of life.
When this interviewee told the interview panel that her integrity had never been tested, I was taken aback. What section of Kenya would anyone be living in that her integrity had never been tested?
Actually, all she was required to tell us is how she was vulnerable yet strong amidst this corrupt world that we are living in.
Her performance in the interview had been awesome, she had the right qualifications, appropriate experience, and she was a member of several professional bodies – just everything that we were looking for in this position. I do not know how the other panelists rated her but for me, and in this particular section, she fell below expectation. Infact, she had failed the integrity test in this integrity question.