The Cost of Integrity

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Several years ago, while discussing integrity and leadership with a client group in Seoul, Korea, a participant fluent in Mandarin asked if he could step to the flipchart and draw a Mandarin character. He drew the character for integrity which consists, he explained, of three parts: ten eyes, one heart, and a moving target.
We live and work these days in a land of moving targets. A person of integrity dare not be static or stuck in one place. Multiple perspectives, including that which has not even been imagined, are required – at least “ten eyes”. The virtue of integrity is not a matter of truthfulness but rather openness – openness to all that is yet to be discovered. I need to pause and ask myself, “Do I really believe that?” I do believe it, but sometimes I am incredibly impatient with my own orthodoxies and well-established assumptions.
Scientists have historically been among the greatest “heretics”. That makes advancing in the performance rankings really tough! The courage to be open and to be different often comes with a cost.
The heart is the source of courage. As leaders it is essential that we stay close to our hearts. How scientific is that?

  • Mark Solien

    There is another important aspect of integrity that Richard Feynman, nobel prize winner in physics, writes about in his 1974 Caltech Commencement Address. He calls it “a principle of scientific thought that corresponds to a kind of utter honesty” such that you avoid the trap of claiming certainty and leave room for doubt and questions. Feynman (The Role of Scientific Culture in Modern Society) goes on to say “We must discuss each question within the uncertainties that are allowed. And as evidence grows it increases the probability perhaps that some idea is right, or it decreases it. But it never makes absolutely certain one way or the other. Now we have found that this is of paramount importance in order to progress. We absolutely must leave room for doubt or there is no progress and there is no learning. There is no learning without having to pose a question. And a question requires doubt. People search for certainty. But there is no certainty.”