by Mike Baer
The word “integrity” has been bandied about so much over the last decade or so that it has practically become meaningless. Politicians are described in their self-serving advertisements as men or women of “integrity.” We like the word. It’s right up there with “tolerant”—another empty term. In fact, who could argue with someone who was tolerant and had integrity. He or she would be a postmodern super hero.
Unfortunately, we don’t think about words much any more. We don’t dwell on what they mean. As a result, we lose the richness and power of a great concept. So, in this article, I want to spend a few moments unpacking two dimensions of integrity, especially in the context of Business as Mission.
Integrity and Ethics
When I first began teaching business in the Former Soviet Union twenty years ago, the first hurdle I had to overcome was establishing that business was legitimate in the first place. Most people viewed business as inherently corrupt and dishonest. Today’s America has very much the same opinion. And why not? We hear constant news flashes of another scandal in Apple’s China factory or fraud in CitiGroup’s financial products or theft on Wall Street, or…ad nauseum. It is erroneous to confuse business with the business person. The person is corrupt but business is not. Nevertheless, few think that deeply and so they condemn all things business as dark, greedy and devilish.