Integrity is the Most Important Requirement in a Manager

I’ve been thinking about Martha Stewart and her felony conviction this past weekend. I use this quote in the hiring book:

“Somebody once said that in looking for people to hire, you look for three qualities: integrity, intelligence, and energy. And if they don?t have the first, the other two will kill you.” — Warren Buffett (In Joan Magretta’s What Management Is, p. 194)

Stewart clearly has intelligence and energy — and her accomplishments including her company’s growth was proof of that. The jury decided she lied, which for me is evidence of insufficient integrity. Aside from Stewart’s personal problems, the company has to determine whether and how to continue.

I have no idea about the market for the kinds of things Stewart’s company sells. I’m not a consumer of her products. But, the company employs a bunch of people (I can’t get to the reports right now, so I can’t look it up). And, because head of the corporation lied and committed a felony, some of those people will probably lose their jobs.

We all have moments in our lives, when we’re tempted to lie — just a little. Or cheat — just a little. Or steal — just a little. Don’t do it. It’s bad enough to be unethical when you’re the only one depending on you. Once you’re a manager, your actions amplify those of the people who work with you. You cheat a little, or lie or steal or whatever — even just a little and they get cheated once the truth comes out.

Sometimes it’s hard to keep your integrity. You may even be faced with a choice of your integrity or your job. And you may feel as if you have no options. If you’re ever in that position, and you’re tempted, remember the rule of three, and determine what your three alternatives are. But don’t compromise your integrity. That’s the cornerstone of your management value — to you and to your company.

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