Jan 17

My Precious: Integrity

Stephan Polomski
Stephan Polomski is director human resources, coach and trainer

“The word ‘integrity’ stems from the Latin adjective integer (whole, complete)”, it reads in the English version of Wikipedia. “In this context, integrity is the inner sense of ‘wholeness’ deriving from qualities such as honesty and consistency of character“, as well as truthfulness and accountability. “As such, one may judge that others ‘have integrity’ to the extent that they act according to the values, beliefs and principles they claim to hold”, meaning that those who act according to the value system they claim to have, reach a high level of congruence.

Congruence – walking the talk – creates credibility and trust, the two prerequisites for any kind of ethically rooted leadership.

In Italy the last President resigned not because of the many civil trials on his back but because he couldn´t handle the state deficit he produced during his term.

In Switzerland the chief of the National Central Bank resigned because of insider trading.

In Germany the Defense Minister finally resigned because he plagiarized large parts of his doctoral thesis.

And these days, Germany´s Federal President – the highest position in state – is in focus, because he accepted as public official benefits through a private credit of half a million Euros for a moderate interest rate and verbally menaced the editor in chief the German gutter paper Bild not to publish an article on this issue.

One must know, that Germany´s constitution (!) claims freedom of opinion and press. And last Saturday, Hans Herbert von Arnim, renowned professor of public law, publishes an approval certificate, pointing out that taking the credit was even against the law.

For weeks now, Germany´s Federal President communicates through lawyers, hides, disguises, embellishes – but does not resign.

The German and English versions of the website of the Federal President say: His function is the only constitutional institution consisting in only one person. Hence, the personality of the incumbent is extremly crucial  for leadership and administration, and further: “The titles ’supreme federal notary’, ‘first representative of the State’ and ‘figure of integration’ all describe aspects of the role of the Federal President.”

The German Federal President is the one role, who espouses Germany´s constitutional values foremost, at first rank and as the very first citizen in state as role model for all other citizens and for those who are democratically endowed with power in the parliament that they shall not abuse this delegated power. He is the one and in crisis the last authority to guard the inner wholeness of the system of power, he is the one to guard truthfulness and accountability. By doing so, he secures the ethic and cultural fundament of German state, which, in its national history, overcame Nazi terror and socialist dictatorship. The function of the German Federal President embodies as descendent what the fathers of the German constitution gave the nation as vessel of impeccable values, beliefs and principles. He or she is the one who governs political leadership by his eldership of wisdom and righteousness.

Well. Far from it looking to the incumbent!

What Germans experience these days is a man, currently in the function of Federal President, who as living example does neither represent nor live up to the spirit and the values of the German constitution.

His behavior, on the contrary, perfectly represents the code of conduct of a caste which by now, after more than 60 years of history, more and more rules German politics and economy. Once in power these political and economical leaders believe that the rules and principles and values effective for all other citizens or employees do not longer apply for themselves. It is exactly the attitude which recently drove a CEO of a German Dax company to claim: “What are values worth, if profits are down?”

In fact, such remarks – no need for values – or such behavior – not telling the full truth and bullying – simply show the real value system of many who reached leading roles in this country (and surely not only there): greediness, dishonesty, personal enrichment, deceit, power play, fraud covered by honorable functions and titles.

Never would we find these values in a constitution paper or in a corporate identity. Still, they are lived reality.

However, these qualities, without being outspoken but lived up to, subside into the perception of citizens and employees, their attidude and finally their behavior. They corrode the meaning of constitutions and corporate identities and worse: they corrode societies and organizations  just because those who lead live up to their own rotten values in full disregard for what their functional role is claiming by virtue of a constitution or a corporate identity.

These leaders foster resentment, distrust, frustration, resignation, cynicism, and malevolence among those they lead.

The higher a person rises in political or economical leadership the more sensitive and crucial ethical principles and values apply and the more dangerous inconsistencies are if they are not resolved. And resolving means taking the responsibility and change.

Integrity in leadership guarantees peaceful constancy and positive development of the social, cultural and economical system be it a state, a company or a group or even within one person, the leader himself.

“Integrity in leadership guarantees peaceful constancy and positive development of the social, cultural and economical system be it a state, a company or a group or even within one person, the leader himself.”

And exactly there: within the person who leads basic decisions have to be taken with self-awareness and these decisions have to be reassessed and supervised regularly. This is true responsibility out which sometimes real greatness might emerge. – Something we wish to see in the person of a Federal President or a CEO of a Dax company.

It means mentally carrying a ring of integrity and holding it tight as it is the most important precious a leader might possess.

Those who throw it away give up themselves loosing their face and their honor.

This entry was posted on Tuesday, January 17th, 2012 at 02:00 and is filed under Leadership. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Responses are currently closed, but you can trackback from your own site.

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  1. Stephan you are absolutely right.
    With people like him – how should we be able to find sustainable leadership-models for the future.
    He has to serve our country and it seems that these politicians have only one goal -to get as much as possible for themselves.
    I will continue to argue against people like him.

  2. This, what happens, is simply too much. The CareGuys, we talked it over, is a non-political blog. However, some certain things cannot be tolerated, as they are emblematic for an attitude which is poisening the mind of a nation and the pillars of our democratic and economic self-concept, the inner meaning, which gives purpose and direction. – Thanks for your support.