Integrity 101: Lying & Cheating Won’t Get You Anywhere in Business

Just ask Bernie Madoff or ex Enron CEO Jeff Skilling where lying and cheating to your partners, customers and the almighty government will lead you. Having little or no integrity — lying and cheating your way to the top might sound like a good shortcut on paper, but just look at the ending of any movie ever made where someone lies and swindles to get ahead in their career, and show me one where the bad guy comes out a winner.

Enron was often lauded for being one of the world’s most innovative and ballsy companies — now Skilling and his former crew are front-and-center in any business class lecture on the subject of integrity. Liars are a lonely bunch, with busy minds that have to keep track of their past fibs so as not to trip up and expose themselves. Eventually, karma and collective intelligence exposes those who lack integrity and the punishment is generally swift and merciless.

A boss or leader?

Leaders with integrity understand that the ‘right’ thing to do is always the right thing to do.

The best out there, such as former General Electric CEO Jack Welch, considered one of the best business leaders of all time, do the right thing without hesitation or even compassion. The right thing is simply the right thing.

They won’t lie to a failing employee and keep them on board because they have a family to support. They also won’t allow themselves or their subordinates lie to the press about competitors in order to gain advantage.

As their experience grows and word gets around, those who embrace integrity get increasingly larger pieces of whatever pie they’re eating because people know they can trust them to always do the right thing — even if it ruffles a few feathers in the process!

Leaders with integrity are more effective because they’re approachable in all circumstances.

Great leaders are grounded firmly in reality (meaning few will ever take over the Presidency!) The reality principle in leadership dictates that a leader cannot allow their need for pleasure dictate their decision making process — they accept truths for what they are and would never foster a culture that feels they need to have bad news diluted with lies.

Thus, when those who work for them need to approach them with news, good or bad, they can do so with confidence knowing that leader will be reasonable and not let their ego take over. Taking the reality principle even further, successful leaders who don’t lie or cheat, or condone such behavior aren’t afraid to question their beliefs or the decisions they’ve made.

As such, they frequently learn from their mistakes and gain loyalty because of their willingness toward self examination, and acceptance of constructive criticism from others. They’re also more approachable because of their disdain toward the making of assumptions.

Great leaders have the most integrity of all their peers
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Leaders with integrity keep their promises.

Leaders with integrity always keep their promises and offer their loyalty toward like-minded people who do the same. One of the most interesting things to note when identifying greatness over those who can just get the job done, is how meticulous and careful leaders are about making commitments to others.

A “no” today will almost always mean a no tomorrow, and “maybes” are rare, but a “yes” is always a yes. This is because a leader with integrity has their moral compass firmly in place and are compulsive in delivering on their commitments.

These principles spill over into all aspects of the business they do, as they expect to be treated the same as they treat others. Meaning, those who can’t be trusted are often cast out of the circle and will often not get a second chance — Ie., leaders cultivate a circle of honesty and respect around them and don’t waste their time dealing with bad apples over and over again!


Leaders with integrity are great for many reasons — honesty, trustworthiness, fairness, and smart decision making. Remember that if you want to travel down this road, it only takes one small slip in moral judgement to send your ship sailing South instead of due North. Consider how easy it is to let your dental health slide by allowing yourself to skip brushing and flossing just one day: it gets easier and easier to make that excuse a second, third time, right.

Leading with integrity is a way of life, and something everyone we come in contact with throughout life will surely benefit from.