Integrity Matters
March 10, 2004

Include charity, graciousness with integrity

Question: (E-098)

Dear Jim:

Of the Bracher Center for Integrity in Leadership's "Eight Attributes" of integrity, which do most companies or organizations lack the most when your consulting company provides initial evaluations?


Let me focus on two of the eight that may be missing, especially in younger companies: No. 1 is charity. No.2 is graciousness. Emerging companies, with frequently cash-strapped owners are hard pressed to take their eyes off the target: staying in business and not running out of cash.
As a consequence, entrepreneurs can be so legitimately self-absorbed that they forget to be grateful or gracious about community stewardship. Even though they know what to do, time and circumstance can get in the way of their giving back, whether in time or dollars.

Graciousness can also suffer, and not only in the beginning. Some companies, even when they reach billions in annual revenues, never adopt a pattern that demonstrates care and concern for all stakeholders. These firms move from abrasive upstarts to haughty upstarts and then finally to ruthless enterprises. Customers who need their business may tolerate the abuses, quietly seething and despising the fact that they must deal with the insensitivities.

One story stands out, because it portrays an individual who had every reason to be kind and thoughtful. He had come to the United States, started shining shoes and worked his way through college, earning a doctorate and acquiring in excess of a billion dollars. He was so cruel to his computer engineers that when one of them brought his product to the office of the founder for review, the product, with a small error, was thrown to floor exploding into thousands of pieces.

A few years later, when the man was unable to hire a person to take the top position in his company, he asked what was wrong. The candidate, who had worked with our company for several years, suggested that the "abrasive boss" call me for some assistance. When the man did call, dutifully, he made the following remarks: "Mr. So and So suggest I phone you to talk about addressing problems with people management. When I have such a need, I will call you. Goodbye." That was the end of the conversation.

Three years later, the individual was almost bankrupt, divorced and still convinced he was right.
In his case, he did not listen, was not gracious and seemed not to care. There are other ways to operate, and most of them underscore that integrity matters.

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