Why integrity should be at the centre of your value system

moral compass concept
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Exercising your moral compass at work is an increasingly valuable quality, particularly in this digital age when we never really 'switch off' and values are all too easily manipulated.

We live in a world of fake news, a world where we can reinvent ourselves online and fabricate our lives however we want to. If you are authentic in your actions and words, keep your commitments, take responsibility for your choices and are sincere this makes you stand out and it builds trust.

A life with integrity is an examined one. There will be times when we behave with what seems to be a lack of integrity or acting in our own self-interest. Sometimes that may be down to reacting to circumstances or lashing out because of pressure we might be under.

Our ability to act with integrity may well be better demonstrated by our subsequent actions, such as learning what triggers stress responses and developing the self-awareness to look after ourselves, or by our ability to be honest, apologise swiftly and put something right.

If we are stressed it might be difficult to act with integrity because our actions and behaviour are likely to be heavily influenced by stress factors. Under those circumstance it may feel we have no choice.

If acting without integrity - such as deliberately stealing, lying or hurting others - is a choice, then what underlies that choice is how we justify the action. Today’s choice for honesty seems to be ‘it’s OK as long as you don’t get caught’, or ‘it’s not that bad, everyone is doing it’.

What is it exactly?

'Integrity' is word you hear almost every day, but it's not a word that people spend a lot of time thinking about. If you try to define it, what would you say?

The word integrity evolved from the Latin adjective integer, meaning whole or complete. So integrity is the inner sense of 'wholeness' stemming from qualities such as honesty and consistency of character.

Think of integrity like a moral compass, holding true to your values and beliefs and choosing to live by these in your day-to-day life.

You may judge that others "have intergity" to the extent that they act according to the values, beliefs and principles they claim to hold. Doesn’t that in turn depend on specifically what those values, beliefs and principles are?

Integrity will vary from person to person, often significantly so. What you value and the principles you hold may not be the ones that I value and uphold. You can think of integrity like a moral compass, holding true to your values and beliefs and choosing to live by these in your day-to-day life.

In many ways integrity is about character. It is what you do when no one else is looking, and is of course heavily dependent on what we believe to be right, our values and how we choose to behave: congruent words, actions and thoughts and congruence between what you say and what you do.

Values and managing time are great ways to illustrate how we can bring integrity into our day-to-day.


Integrity is about character. Can character be developed? Certainly it can! Being consistent, honest and doing what you say you will do (and practising this) is a great start.

Have an opinion and stand up for something, don’t sit on the fence. Think about what you value and the principles you hold dear and where these have come from. Some of these may be a product of your upbringing or conditioning and may not be traits or characteristics you want to keep. So knowing yourself is important.

How can you be true to yourself and keep your side of the street clean if you don’t know yourself, your strengths and weaknesses, what makes you tick and what you are accountable for? If you observe negative behaviour in others, you do not have to emulate it. That is always a choice.

It is a really good idea to spend some time identifying your own values. In terms of your professional life, what sort of work do you do? Is this in line with your values and beliefs? If not, it’s probably not the right environment for you.

In your personal life, what sort of relationship are you in and does it enhance your life and bring out the best in you, and vice versa? These, too, are connected with integrity because it will be easier to live a life of integrity if how you live and work is aligned to your inner compass.

Managing time

What does managing your time have to do with integrity? Well, it has become much easier for us to not keep promises and commitments. These days we think nothing of changing something at the last minute, without undue concern about the person we have let down.

Our mobile devices are always on, interrupting us with notifications about what others are doing and saying. This forces us to embrace more switching between tasks, more fluidity in our daily activities.

In fact, you are probably finding that more and more appointments or meetings come with a last-minute call or a text or an email announcing a late arrival or a change of plan. If it’s not you sending those texts, you’re probably on the receiving end of them.

Part of this is because we can. Our lifestyles and our reliance on technology encourage this. So does our love of what we think is multi-tasking as we hurtle through our lives. Social media and smart phones are creating a strong tidal pull towards what’s known as ‘polychronic behaviours’.

At least two generations have already been taught to process information in this way rather than chronologically and in sequence. Our mobile devices are always on, interrupting us with notifications about what others are doing and saying. This forces us to embrace more switching between tasks, more fluidity in our daily activities.

Use a different approach: get rid of your to-do-list (track projects and deadlines on a calendar instead); resist over-scheduling (you can't cram 12 hours of work into eight hours, so stop trying); and estimate times realistically (let's face it, most tasks take longer than we think they will). Slow down a bit too. Plan your week, plan your day. Get up earlier. Be more intentional.

About Emma Sue Prince

Emma Sue Prince is author of “7 Skills for the Future” available now to pre-order from Amazon. Emma Sue Prince is a specialist in experiential learning and believes strongly that this methodology is key to developing life skills and soft skills as it is the only way to develop self-awareness, upon which all behavioural change is based. She delivers powerful workshops in this regard and does so with many different target groups including “closed” groups such as Muslim communities in Bangladesh and North Africa and diverse groups in the UK including lawyers, doctors and software engineers. 


Emma Sue provides consultancy in emerging economies and travels regularly to India, Bangladesh and Tanzania advising on a range of large funded projects. She runs a free membership site – Unimenta – for practitioners working in soft skills. When not working Emma Sue runs a local gospel choir in her home town of Godalming, Surrey and is an avid baker.




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