I recently engaged in an exercise that involved evaluating a list of 88 core values with a goal of identifying those that were the most important to me. While this might seem easy, the list contained some admirable qualities like respect, compassion, and fairness. While I always felt that certain values guided my life choices, I had never really considered examining and prioritizing those values.
The exercise intrigued me, so I jumped in with both feet and selected my top ten, then my top four, and then my top two, one of which was integrity. I identified other values from the list that seemed to be synonymous with integrity—like honesty, trust, truth, authenticity, and loyalty. I also looked at how others define integrity, and found that words like wholeness, completeness, soundness, and accuracy to be common in various definitions.
I started thinking about people who exemplify this quality and whom I would characterize as “persons of integrity,” which seems to describe those who have earned this moniker as a badge of achievement. To be a person of integrity, you must also consistently be honest and truthful in your words and your actions—all the time, not just some of the time or when it’s convenient. Consistency in words and actions can only be achieved when there is an underlying, ingrained belief in a core value that subconsciously guides your thinking.
By unfailingly demonstrating this core value, you incorporate it into your character. This is not something that comes easily but rather requires conscious effort. In time, it becomes second nature.
While integrity is a personal trait, we often mistakenly attribute it to organizations. Since integrity is associated with choices, which are made by people, it’s the integrity, or lack thereof, of the leaders of those organizations and the consistency of their words and actions that we attribute to the organization. Integrity is a key leadership principle—but it’s not necessarily a requirement.
There are many examples throughout history of individuals without integrity in leadership positions—those who were once held in high regard only to fall from grace when transparency sheds light on their actions. It’s important that we hold our leaders accountable, that we ensure they have integrity, and that we insist they establish a culture that values integrity within their organization.
TEDCO identifies integrity as one of its core values. We support the creation and growth of technology-based companies in Maryland to create jobs and grow Maryland’s innovation economy. To do this effectively, we must earn and maintain the trust of our elected officials, who invest public money in us to support our efforts.
Similarly, we evaluate opportunities for investment in start-up and early-stage companies with the hope that others will trust our judgement and co-invest with us to ensure that companies receive the funds they need to thrive. Entrepreneurs entrust us with their most precious ideas and rely on our advice and counsel for their success.
We could not do our jobs effectively if we did not garner trust from all these stakeholders. We work hard to establish and maintain this trust by ensuring that integrity is a core value for each member of TEDCO’s leadership and staff and that this core value, among others, consistently govern our words and actions. This effort is critical to our success.
I hope that my reflections on integrity will inspire others to consider how their own core values can shape their character, and how their character can contribute to the culture and reputation of the organizations they associate with.
Stephen Auvil is the Executive Vice President for Programs at TEDCO.
See what integrity means to the TEDCO team