Why Integrity is more valuable than Reputation

John Wooden-if you are a basketball fan, this name speaks volumes.  For those of us over the age of 50 (for me almost 60) Coach Wooden is synonymous with success with class.  I often talk with others now about how many leaders seek success without class or without integrity, but short term success without integrity is like sugar, the short term impact may help you get through a quick issue, but the long term impact of sugar is fleeting.

I recently listened to the audiobook “Coach Wooden’s Pyramid of Success:  Building Blocks for a Better Life” and found that the book was very insightful, especially in the area of how we value reputation versus integrity.  I’ll write a little about that today.

Coach Wooden compares Integrity with Reputation in the following manner:

  • Reputation is what others think or believe about you
  • Integrity is what you know or believe about yourself

For some of us, we might jump to believe that our reputation is everything, and for those who are focused on impressing others this will be a fact.  The challenge with reputation is that what you show others may vary greatly from who you really are.

Integrity is who we really are, and we learn much about our true integrity in the tough times.  When you have the chance to do something that you believe no on else will know about, how do you respond?  Answering this question will help you understand what integrity really is.

I found this comparison of the two traits to be valuable and somewhat self-indicting for myself.  I often focus on showing my best to others, but I also know there have been times when I acted with less integrity than was appropriate.  The challenge with focusing only on reputation is that your integrity will dwindle because you will do most anything to keep that reputation up.

The truly great leader will sacrifice reputation to uphold integrity, especially if that means divulging things that others may not know without open disclosure.  True integrity can be painful and the pain from real integrity can be long lasting.

An example of true integrity is owning up to a mistake or an oversight before others learn about it for themselves.  I can think of examples in my own life where my own integrity has suffered because I focused too much on the reputation, that outward appearance, versus the true honesty and self-disclosure that comes with true integrity.  I may never achieve the level of integrity that I aspire to, but knowing that integrity lasts a lifetime while reputation is lost in an instant is a great motivating factor.

What about you?  Are you focused solely on reputation or is integrity that you strive for, even with the short-term pain that may come with true integrity?

If you take a moment to reflect, the answer may become apparent, even painfully apparent.

Choose integrity; you will be glad you have done so.

Note:  The graphic below shows the complete Pyramid of Success.  I’ll write more about this in coming weeks.