Integrity in business

In what most of us find a very sophisticated world, we are sometimes led to believe integrity can be flexible, subject to whatever circumstances we encounter.

A definition of integrity as it relates to business was once given to me by example rather than by word. As a young stockbroker, I had been given the responsibility of opening a new branch office and then finding a manager for it, which I did. Some months later I was called into the headquarters office by the senior partners. It appeared that the manager I had hired had placed new issue securities in his mother-in-law's account; this resulted in a substantial and illegal profit. The most senior partner, a man known for his great personal integrity, patiently listened as I tried to explain away the manager's conduct. I pointed out the manager's good qualities and cited this act as a regrettable lapse brought on by his apparent inability in this particular case to realize the difference between right and wrong action. When I had finished my explanation, he asked quietly, "Would you have done it?" Those five words ended the discussion. I knew he would never have considered it, and he evidently felt neither would I.

Selling, giving, and following
October 10, 1994

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