What is personal integrity and why is it important?

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When you hear the word “integrity” it can feel weighty and a little bit ambiguous. You might know it’s a good thing to have but aren’t exactly clear on what personal integrity is or how you can demonstrate that you have it.

However intangible it might seem, personal integrity is a critical life skill. It can lead you to be the person you want to become and keep you on track when you stumble off your path.

Let’s break down what personal integrity is and why it’s important in your life. Plus how to show you possess it and how it can impact the people around you.

Table of contents
What is personal integrity?
What is an example of integrity in a person?
How can you demonstrate personal integrity?
Why is personal integrity important?
Statistics on aspects of integrity
How do you show personal integrity?
Living a life of integrity
What is professional integrity in the workplace?
The best way to develop personal integrity in all aspects of life

What is personal integrity?

Personal integrity is defined as having strong morals or values and following those principles in both your words and actions.

The concept of having integrity is really quite simple—living with integrity means you uphold your values, no matter the situation or who is watching. You live to your own moral standards and uphold your personal commitments.

An easy way to think about integrity is when what you say aligns with what you do. For example, someone would show a lack of integrity if they say that honesty is one of their values but they’re dishonest or don’t share the entire truth with others. If honesty is one of your moral principles, you’ll find a way to be transparent with others, even when it’s difficult.

When you have personal integrity, you’re also true to yourself and what you believe in. You don’t let others influence you easily, and you stick to your ethical principles when it comes to what you want in life and the type of person you want to be.

What is an example of integrity in a person?

An example of artistic integrity is an artist who becomes famous and develops their artistry in a personally meaningful way. Rather than conform to popular demand, they uphold their artistic values and focus on goals related to their own intellectual virtues. Their artist integrity involves maintaining honesty and staying true to their vision and moral compass - especially when faced with challenges or temptations.

How can you demonstrate personal integrity?

a person with personal integrity is proud of their actions

An easy way to demonstrate personal integrity is to make sure what you say aligns with what you do.

If you decide to make a commitment to pacifism, your display of strength will not include physical violence. Rather you would be focused on nonviolent communication, peaceful solutions, and conflict resolution.

You can also show integrity in terms of being upfront about any potential mistakes you’ve made. Persons of integrity may act as a positive model and report if others are acting outside of agreements or policies. Keeping yourself and others honest is a strong contributor to having integrity. If you’re ever in doubt about how you can show integrity in a situation, just ask yourself what the right thing is to do. That’s your best way forward.

Someone would show a lack of integrity if they say that honesty is one of their values but they’re dishonest or don’t share the entire truth with others. If honesty is one of your moral principles, you’ll find a way to be transparent with others, even when it’s difficult.

Personal integrity is demonstrated by the way you live your life day in and day out. Being consistent with your values and principles is the biggest way to show you have personal integrity and can be relied upon to do the right thing, even when no one is watching. When you live with personal integrity, you become a positive model for those around you.

Why is personal integrity important?

Personal integrity is important for a lot of reasons. Overall, it shows your strength of character and can lead you to have a more meaningful life. When you have integrity, you’re committed to doing the right thing, no matter what. A person with high integrity is more likely to feel content in life since they know what their values and priorities are and aren’t afraid to take action to pursue them.

Demonstrating integrity can make you more friends, too. Others value integrity in the people they surround themselves with. Soft skills like integrity are highly praised in the workplace too. If you dream of a leadership role it's important to act within your moral principles.

And finally, as the data above shows, if an organization’s culture lacks integrity, it can also negatively affect employees and the business’ overall performance. A company actually performs better when there’s an environment that values integrity, and employees are held to high ethical standards. Leadership can model professional integrity—but remember, everyone can show up as role models at work.

Statistics on aspects of integrity

Integrity can have a significant impact on your mental health. It is also linked to the success of business organizations. Here are some ways integrity might show up in your personal or professional life:

  • It is well known that holding intrinsic values, such as personal growth and affiliation, is positively associated with happiness1.
  • Studies have shown that people who think about their highest values before a stressful event experience less stress2.
  • Knowing your values helps you distinguish between what seems urgent and what is truly important2.
  • 33% of workers across 13 countries said they had observed misconduct in their workplace in the previous year3.
  • In the United States, 30% of workers have witnessed rules violations at work3.
  • Both employees and C-suite leaders place a high premium on integrity among executives4.
  • Only 21% of employees believe they work in a business with a strong ethical culture.
  • 40% of employees said their companies had weak or weak-leaning ethics5.
  • More than 50% of the 10 largest corporate bankruptcies since 1980, such as Enron, WorldCom, and Lehman Brothers, resulted from unethical business practices6.
  • The ethics of an organization’s culture plays a significant role in creating and sustaining value.

How do you show personal integrity?

Personal integrity is demonstrated by the way you live your life day in and day out. Being consistent with your values and principles is the biggest way to show you have personal integrity and can be relied upon to do the right thing, even when no one is watching. When you live with personal integrity, you become a positive model for those around you.

You can also show your personal integrity if you are upfront about any potential mistakes you’ve made or that you’ve witnessed from others and feel obligated to report. Keeping yourself and others honest is a strong contributor to having integrity. If you’re ever in doubt about how you can show integrity in a situation, just ask yourself what the right thing is to do. That’s your best way forward.

Living a life of integrity

You can't live a life of integrity if you don't know what you value. Getting clear on your soft skills will help you see the areas in your life in which you thrive—and the blind spots that might need some development.

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To get started, take the free assessment and uncover your top motivational skills. Your dashboard will show your results instantly so you can get a big-picture view of your results—that are as unique as your fingerprint.

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Coaching can help you reflect on what is most important to you so you can develop your sense of personal integrity. It can also help with landing your dream job.

What are the fundamental values of personal integrity?

1. Determine and follow a set of core values

It’s impossible to have integrity if you don’t have a moral code that you set for yourself and follow. Your values can be written down, or you could create a personal mission statement for yourself. For some people, it’s helpful to follow a philosophical or religious doctrine to help them shape their morals and values.

Some example personal values you could jot down include:

However you decide to form your values, it’s key that you follow those principles in all situations to develop and uphold integrity. Your values are your roadmap to success in personal integrity.

2. Be honest

Honesty is also a critical part of having personal integrity. In addition to following a set of values, you should also be transparent and honest about your actions because you have nothing to hide.

Everyone appreciates honesty, even though it can be difficult for the truth-teller and the receiver of the truth. By making honesty a priority in your life, you’ll be able to maintain your personal integrity.

3. Help others

A person who wants to help others spreads a lot of good in the world and usually shows good moral character. If you value generosity and good deeds, you’ll also want to make sure you follow through on those values and take action.

You can help people who you interact with day-to-day or reach out to volunteer organizations to do service work in your community. However you choose to give back, it’s important to do so authentically and not just to maintain appearances or check off a box.

two people are cleaning up trash because it's part of their personal integrity values

4. Lead by example

One of the most ineffective types of leaders is someone with the philosophy, “Do as I say, not as I do.” It’s hard to respect someone who doesn’t follow through on what they say they’ll do, and even harder to work with or for them.

One of the best ways to demonstrate that you have integrity is to act according to your values, whether the people around you follow those principles or not. While you may not have direct reports, you can still lead others to act with integrity. You’ll be seen as someone with good character if you can follow your morals while everyone else follows their whims—and you may even inspire others to follow your example.

5. Take responsibility

There will probably come a time when you don’t demonstrate integrity or slip up on your values. This is normal and remember that everyone makes mistakes.

How you respond after recognizing that you messed up is important. If you avoid taking responsibility and find excuses for why you didn’t behave according to your morals, you’re digging yourself into an even deeper hole showing a lack of integrity.

When you’ve messed up, own up to your mistake and hold yourself accountable for any repercussions. Not only will other people respect you more for your responsibility, but you may also repair any broken trust that resulted.

What is professional integrity in the workplace?

a team gathered together in harmony as they own their personal integrity

Professional integrity in the workplace is related to following ethical principles and values that guide behavior and decision-making within an organization. It plays a crucial role in shaping a productive and healthy work culture.

Here are four examples of integrity in the workplace and how to demonstrate personal integrity:

1. Follow company policies

The reason company policies are created in the first place is to ensure the business maintains or develops an ethical culture. Companies often have a set list of values, policies, and mission statements that outline the corporate integrity. The conception of integrity is to align employees on what is expected and important to the organization.

By committing to a firm adherence to these workplace rules and statements, whether it’s a vacation policy or anti-harassment policy, you show that you find the guidance valuable and respect the company's approach to integrity.

2. Respect all coworkers

While you may not be everyone’s best friend, it’s still important to show respect and kindness to everyone in the workplace. There will be times when you may disagree with someone and it would be easy to gossip about them. However, hold yourself to the principles you value and take the high road.

You’ll be seen as a mature and capable professional and will gain even more respect from your boss or colleagues. Respect also shows up by allowing others to contribute equally during meetings, being flexible with different working schedules, and asking for input or feedback.

3. Speak up about any misconduct

The phrase, “If you see something, say something,” applies pretty well here. If you see any of your coworkers or leaders acting in a way that doesn’t reflect the company’s values or could be considered unethical, you should take the opportunity to speak up.

It can feel intimidating to come forward about workplace misconduct, especially if the person you’re reporting is a friend or your superior. But if you don’t say something, who will? A common excuse people use when not reporting unethical behavior is they believe someone else will report it. When no one does and the behavior goes unchecked. Uphold the professional integrity of your workplace by holding yourself and your colleagues to ethical standards.

4. Be accountable for mistakes

There are also situations where behavior isn’t necessarily unethical but doesn’t reflect your integrity. If there was a mistake made, own up to your oversight and take responsibility for making it right. Putting blame on others or avoiding any confrontation expands the issue and doesn’t show good character on your part.

Additionally, you can show personal integrity through how you go about your work and your personal commitments. For example, if you hand in a project that was done with little effort because you were feeling lazy on Friday afternoon, that doesn’t hold up well if you or your organization values high-quality work. You can hold yourself accountable by planning out time to work on projects so you don’t wait until the last minute or by being honest with your business partners to find a reasonable deadline where you can showcase your best work.

The best way to develop personal integrity in all aspects of life

You likely act with personal integrity already, but if you think that you have some areas to work on, you’re not alone. Integrity is a lifelong journey that requires patience as you cultivate this critical life skill.

You’ll also need to give yourself some grace. There will be times along the way when you don’t show integrity or aren’t as honest as you could have been. You can use these experiences as learning opportunities to find out what went wrong, and then own up and correct your mistake.

Regardless of where you are in your journey to demonstrating personal integrity, you’ll never improve if you don’t get started. Begin by reflecting on areas in your personal life or workplace where you can demonstrate integrity. Then, you can focus on developing the five attributes of personal integrity: follow a set of values, be honest, help others, lead by example, and take responsibility. Ask a trusted friend or a life coach to help keep you accountable, and you’ll see that showing integrity will soon become second nature.

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  1. https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0209821
  2. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/changepower/201811/9-surprising-superpowers-knowing-your-core-values
  3. https://magazine.ethisphere.com/what-the-data-shows-a-global-view-of-workplace-integrity/
  4. https://execed.economist.com/blog/industry-trends/why-integrity-remains-one-top-leadership-attributes

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