Real World Integrity

Real world integrity is the alignment of honorable intentions with disciplined behavior.

Recently I had the opportunity to speak to a chapter of the FBI National Academy at their annual meeting. The audience was comprised of law enforcement executives and professionals who have completed an intensive ten-week program offered by the FBI to a very select group of law enforcement professionals.

The core values of the National Academy Associates are pretty straightforward: Knowledge. Courage. Integrity. Given these core values, a keynote address on the topic of “Integrity-Based Success” seemed very appropriate. The keynote drew heavily on the Building Bridges to the Future® metaphor[1] and was followed by a three-hour workshop on emotional intelligence.

The keynote address zeroed in on the concept that integrity has to do with how well integrated we are in all areas of our lives, how well integrated our character is. We discussed the 4D Personal Leadership Model© which combines EQ with TQ:


This model firmly cements two dimensions of understanding and one dimension of action (emotional intelligence / EQ) with the dimension of conscience & character (truth check / TQ). In this context, integrity can be defined as “the integrated, unified whole” which embraces these abilities[2]:

  • To connect authentically
  • To be oriented toward truth
  • To work so as to get results and finish well
  • To embrace, engage and deal with the negative
  • To be oriented toward growth
  • To be transcendent

Because of the deep respect and heartfelt gratitude that I have for the men and women of law enforcement who serve our communities so well, I felt honored to be at the table with them.  These are men and women of integrity who know: Real world integrity is the alignment of honorable intentions with disciplined behavior. There is an old saying in law enforcement, “Lose your integrity and you die.”  In what other profession can you lose your career by lying?

I knew I would learn from their insights and response to the half day I had with them, so I followed up a week after the event. One of the questions I asked was, “My most powerful learning moment / most useful take-away from the Monday morning session was: ___________”

One creative response was, “The analogy of the Mackinac bridge. 75% of that bridge is below water, its foundation. It’s 5.2 miles long and can sway up to 35′. Amazing. We as leaders, people in our communities need that ‘solid foundation,’ something that we can stand firm on. Life is long (5.2 miles is long for a bridge) and we need to be flexible (sway up to 35′) and be willing to learn and think outside the box when working with peers, subordinates, etc. Without Honor and Integrity we (law enforcement) are nothing more then an empty shell in an empty uniform! Our FOUNDATION needs to be solid, firm and we must NEVER sway from it. Thought long and hard about the quote: ‘Experience is better than a college degree, but the tuition is higher.’ We need to be willing to share that experience with others. Another one I liked was: ‘Lead by example. It’s not the main thing, it’s the only thing.’ AMEN! So often we don’t always do what we say … We (leadership) need to change that and ‘do first,’ and ‘say second.’”

Another response was, “Values are the most important factor in ‘leadership effectiveness’… What’s ‘under the water’ [bridge substructure, cable anchorages and footings] determines what happens ‘out of the water’ [bridge superstructure and the capability to carry the bridge’s traffic]…”

One individual described his most memorable takeaway as, “the analogy of the bridge and the fact that much of what makes the bridge so strong and stable is below the waterline (the foundation). I equated that analogy with integrity an individual has. If it’s an integral part of themself, they are a strong, trustworthy, stable, and reliable person.”

Truly, real world integrity is the alignment of honorable intentions with disciplined behavior.

[1] Melvin D. Nelson, Building Bridges: Today’s Decisions – Gateway to Your Future (Insight Publishing, Sevierville, Tennessee, 2012)

[2] Dr. Henry Cloud, Integrity: The Courage to Meet the Demands of Reality (Harper, 2006)


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