A unique and distinctive personal brand is a big part of creating positive personal impact. Your brand should reflect you and your uniqueness. However, there is one thing that I believe that should be a part of everyone’s personal brand – integrity.
According to Wikipedia, “Integrity is consistency of actions, values, methods, measures and principles.” Integrity and consistency are intertwined. People who are consistent in their actions are seen as people with a high degree of integrity.
I once saw a quote from Oprah Winfrey: “Real integrity is doing the right thing, knowing that nobody’s going to know whether you did it or not.” This is true. If you practice situational ethics – doing the right thing only when you’re in the public eye — you aren’t really a person of high integrity, you’re just pretending to be one.
Besides, it’s hard to act one way in public, and another in private. So to be safe, resolve to act like Oprah. Do the right thing because it’s the right thing to do – not because you’ll get credit, or avoid getting into trouble.
John Maxwell is a well known business author. One of his books sends the same message. It’s called There’s No Such Thing As Business Ethics: There’s Only One Rule for Making Decisions. According to John, that rule is the Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” In other words, do the right thing.
There’s a practical side to this too. Mark Twain once said, “If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything.” In other words, if you’re always a person of high integrity, it’s easy to be a person of high integrity; there are no complicating factors – like remembering what you did or said in a given situation.
Polonius gave similar advice to Hamlet. “To thine own self be true, and it must follow as the day the night, thou canst be false to no man.” Roy Blackman, my father in law passed away a few years ago. This quote was his epitaph. It was on the program handed out at his funeral. Roy embodied it in how he lived his life. It was the only piece of advice he gave his grandson, Matt, as he went off to college.
Oprah, John Maxwell, Mark Twain and Shakespeare are all in agreement on one common sense point. If you want to become known as a person of high integrity – and I believe integrity is the cornerstone of any personal brand – act as a person of high integrity all the time – not just when it suits you, or when someone might notice.
Here’s a story to illustrate this point. Cathy, my wife was a flight attendant for 36 years. Seniority is a very important thing in the airline industry. It governs how you bid for trips, positions on the airplane and vacations – almost anything important to a flight attendant’s quality of work life.
Cathy was very active in her union. And seniority was one of the union’s most sacred principles. A few years before she retired, Cathy’s airline made a big push into the international market. International flight were plum assignments, they went to people with high seniority. However, the airline realized that it would be to their advantage to have some flight attendants who spoke the language of the country to which they were flying on these international flights. Most flight attendants in her airline spoke English only. The airline proposed putting two “language speakers” on each international flight. Many people, including Cathy, were upset with this arrangement as they felt it violated the seniority concept.
Cathy used to fly from the US to London. One day I said to her, “This whole language speaker issue doesn’t really affect you. You fly to London, there are no language speakers on those flights. Why do you care so much?” She said, “I believe in the concept of seniority. It doesn’t matter if I’m affected by language speakers. It’s the principal of the thing.” That’s consistency – and integrity in action.