May 17, 2011

Know What's Right, Do What's Right

In a conversation with a good friend recently, we got to talking about integrity--the meaning and of course, the importance.

And at one point, he says straight-out, integrity takes two things:

1) Know what's right

2) Do what's right

And I'm loving it!

Straight-forward and simple--know and do what's right.

Then he tells me about Gus Lee, a nationally recognized ethicist (and Chair of Character Development at the U.S. Military Academy, West Point) who wrote this book Courage: The Backbone of Leadership.

I was inspired by what I heard and since went back to learn more about his philosophy on the subject.

Lee believes that "leadership is grounded in high character" and that "we think we are looking for managers, but in fact, we need principled leaders."

To drive our "moral courage", Lee says we have 3 powerful resources:

1) Conscience--"that moral, inner voice."

2) Discernment--this is where you work to discern "the higher right" getting past "fear, feelings, and wishful thinking" and of course, our own self interests.

3) Discerning Advisors--we seek the counsel of "the most courageous, high integrity, high character, and principled person or people" you know.

And I would add a fourth important resource, which is religious teachings that can be a steadfast guidepost (especially when coupled with the others as a personal litmus test of whether you are applying them correctly).

Finally, I like Lee's observation that there are three type of individuals when it comes to issues of integrity:

1) Egotists--those who are self-serving.

2) Pragmatists--those who "serve results" or what I would call serving a specified cause.

3) People of Courage--those who "act in the right regardless."

Doing the right thing is not easy (it means putting aside your own interests)!

That's why it takes tremendous courage to be the type of moral person that we all ultimately admire and respect.

Those leaders who act with moral rectitude, these to me are the few and the amazing!


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