Integrity & Trust: Next of Kin

Many years ago, before I had children and grandchildren of my own, I was at a lake with a friend who was enjoying his young nephew very much. The boy was four years old and took great delight in energetically throwing himself, launching his body through the air from a picnic table, confident that his uncle would catch him. It was an amazing visual illustration of total trust.

Sadly, as I watched that trust lived out, I was reminded of a story I had read shortly before that day. A father urged his young son to jump into his arms. When he jumped, his father let him fall, and said, “Let that be a lesson to you to never trust anyone.”

Even more sadly, recently I ran into a businessman whom I knew when he was a young boy growing up two doors down the street. As we visited over lunch, I sketched for him the business model BuildingBridges to the Future® as a businessman he had never had a boss he could trust.

That father and those bosses were lacking in integrity. Without integrity, you cannot be trusted … nor will you trust.

Trust is a fundamental outcome in personal and business relationships, an outcome which results from a consistent pattern of integrity-driven behavior, an unswerving pattern of conduct over the long haul.


In a day and age when we are surrounded by numerous examples of moral failure, a fundamental meltdown in the personal integrity of business leaders and politicians, it is refreshing to reflect on the basics, as noted in the values statement of the United States Air Force:

“Integrity is a character trait. It is the willingness to do what is right even when no one is looking. It is the moral compass, the inner voice, the voice of self-control and the basis for the trust imperative in today’s military. Integrity is the ability to hold together and properly regulate all of the elements of a personality. A person of integrity, for example, is capable of acting on conviction. A person of integrity can control impulses and appetites. But integrity also covers several other moral traits indispensable to national service (courage, honesty, responsibility, accountability, justice, openness, self respect, humility).”

The character trait of integrity also embraces honor. Chris Brady and Orrin Woodward in Launching a Leadership Revolution: Mastering the Five Levels of Influence point out that character and integrity, woven together, define honor. Jeff O’Leary, writing in The Centurion Principles defines honor as including “the virtues of integrity and honesty, self-denial, loyalty and a servant’s humility to those in authority above as well as a just and merciful heart to those below.”

Integrity is an asset that must be actively managed. It is not a constant. Integrity can be very quickly compromised if it is not given ongoing attention. “… we found that those rated high in integrity were also rated high on assertiveness … Those with high integrity were very effective at stepping forward and addressing difficult issues, confronting conflict, being direct, and facing up to difficult situations.”1 Integrity takes a lifetime to build … and it can be lost in a heartbeat.


The very act of assertively, aggressively pursuing and managing one’s own integrity through personal behaviors is necessary to achieve trust relationships. This reality is captured in this graphic:

“Trust’s great value can be achieved only … where basic values are reinforced with concrete, measurable behavioral actions. Only then can organizations reach new heights in relationships.”2

Trustworthiness is a fundamental aspect of integrity. Webster defines trustworthy as “worthy of confidence, dependable, reliable.” Galford and Drapeau plumbed the depths of the concept of trustworthiness in their definition of trust:3

Please note that in this formula, trust is inversely proportional and business relationships, an outcome which results from a consistent pattern of integrity-driven behavior, an unswerving pattern of conduct over the long haul. Truly, trust and integrity are next of kin: trust is the offspring of integrity-driven behavior.


1 John H. Zenger & Joseph R. Folkman, The Extraordinary Leader: Turning Good Managers into Great Leaders (New York: McGraw Hill, 2009) p. 178.

2 Paul R. Lawrence and Robert Porter Lynch, “Leadership and the Structure of Trust,”. The European Business Review, May-June 2011, p. 18.

3 Robert Galford and Anne Seibold Drapeau, The Trusted Leader (New York: Free Press, 2002).

Copyright 2013 Executive Management Systems, Inc.

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