Posts Tagged ‘the vital difference between character and integrity’

Day 60 How to Lead by THE BOOK: The Vital Difference between Character & Integrity!

Monday, September 6th, 2010

Character and integrity are both important, but they are not synonymous. In fact, integrity without the right character can spell trouble! This is why it’s important to first determine one’s character before we ask them to live with integrity. In, How to Lead by THE BOOK, I will give several key questions to ask during interviews to help determine a job applicant’s character. But for now, it is important to understand how character and integrity are defined and why they’re different. Here are the dictionary’s descriptions:

Character: The combination of qualities or features that distinguishes one person, group, or thing from another. A distinguishing feature or attribute, as of an individual, group, or category.

Based on this description, it’s easiest to think of character as one’s moral and ethical code. It is a combination of inside traits that determine outward behavior. Now look at the definition of integrity:

Integrity: Steadfast adherence to a strict moral or ethical code.

When you combine character and integrity here’ s what you get: character is one’s moral and ethical code, and integrity means that one lives according to that code. Thus, someone who lives with integrity, lives according to their moral values. That being said, you must first determine the moral values–the code–of that person in order to ascertain whether or not living with integrity is a good or bad thing. For example: If someone has a moral code that says they should inflict injury upon a person of another religion or race and they do so they are, by definition, living with integrity. Unsettling, isn’t it?

On the other hand, if an individual has a strong moral and ethical code but compromises what is right when it serves popular opinion, or in order to achieve personal gain, they are not living with integrity. Despite the quality of their character, their failure to live by their code creates significant behavioral problems.

This is why endeavoring to determine one’s character in an interview is a fairly accurate, but not a foolproof way, of predicting one’s future behavior. One will normally live according to their character code–with integrity–but there may be times when they abandon that code for the sake of expediency. This makes it the responsibility of the interviewer to determine when those instances may occur. Here are two clues:

1. Administer an in-depth personality profile prior to hiring. Our own assessment evaluates 24 traits that are significant indicators of future performance.

2. Examine their life thus far with thoughtful interview questions and deep follow up to their answers.  What have they overcome and accomplished? Have they demonstrated persistence, mental toughness, unselfishness, and strength of character?

The Bible tells that a tree is known by the quality of its fruit, and thus we must examine the fruit of one’s life in order to determine the quality of their character. This principle can be quite helpful when determining the potential value an aspiring applicant may bring to your organization. It may also help you detect those who are inclined to inflict a negative value upon your organization due to a weak character code, or a tendency to compromise it when things get tough. Since you cannot change one’s character once you hire him or her, it’s essential to hire those who already possess a foundation of moral and ethical soundness.