August 6, 2007
The U.S. Senate passed with an overwhelmingly majority a new ethics law regulating the relationship between lobbyists and Congress.
This is a good thing because Congress recognized that it had a problem. Recognition of any problem is the first step in fixing it. Congress would really have to be blind not to recognize the problem after the Abramoff scandal!
However, as we know, new laws may not necessarily change the way people think or act. Laws often tell us what we can't do and imposes penalty for those that trespass them, but laws rarely tell us what we should do. We may have a right to do something that may not necessarily be the right thing to do.
Jim Lukaszewski, author of the soon to be published book Why Should the Boss Listen to You? The Seven Disciplines of the Trusted Strategic Advisor,says that after speaking with a dozen ethics officers about their greatest professional disappointments, they all agreed that it was the lack of integrity in the workplace. Furthermore, they all believed that the best compliance programs failed to prevent corporate and organizational unethical behavior.
There is a difference between complying with laws and regulations and adhering to values. A few years ago, a CEOs of a large company would tell his ethics officer: "Your job is to keep me out of trouble (or jail.)" Now, more and more, a CEO will say to his or her ethics officer, "your job is to tell me who I am or who I should be." We are slowly moving from compliance-based to value-based ethics.
For some integrity may seem to be an abstract concept. It really is not. The word integrity comes from the Latin 'integer', which means one, or entire. It means acting in consistence with one's values. It means not having two minds, such as saying something and doing another. According the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy integrity is very closely connected with the notion of identity and character.
We are all concerned with the concept. We are being impacted by the integrity of others and our integrity or lack of it has an influence on the lives of those closely or even remotely connected to us.
In the recent purchase of The Wall Street Journal by Rupert Murdoch's NewsCorp, a committee was created to guard the "journalistic and editorial integrity" of the paper. The committee will (hopefully) resolve any disputes between the paper's editors and the new owner. The ultimate goal of the committee will be to preserve the identity and independence of the paper vis-à-vis the political views and financial interests of the owners.
In a way, integrity is doing the right thing (or at least what we believe is the right thing) when no one is watching or will ever know.
The great Rabbi Zusya from Poland once said:
In the world to come, I shall not be asked, "Why were you not like Moses?" but I shall be asked, "Why were you not like......Rabbi Zusya?"
Integrity is really about who we are (or ought to be) as individual or corporations and acting accordingly.