Janushi was responsible for report generation and upkeep of the Sales MIS at a large electronics and communication conglomerate based in Noida. She would coordinate and collect data from the respective vertical heads, verify, audit and amalgamate the same to produce monthly/ quarterly reports, and present them at the board meeting held at the end of every quarter.
She was particularly facing issues with the Vice President of South India, Mr. Karnala – who would never submit his data on time, despite multiple requests and reminders. His data invariably arrived only a day prior to the board meeting, and Janushi had no option but to update the mentioned sales figures in his reports without verification.
Her troubles seemed to be over, when it was announced that due to stupendous performance during the last two years, Mr. Karnala was being promoted as Senior Vice President, and was being transferred to the Dubai office for managing the operations at the new geography. Mr. Desai took over the roles and responsibilities from Mr. Karnala.
Mr. Desai was an honest and diligent person and had been with the organization for 12 long years. He had taken over from Mr. Karnala in October, and helped Janushi with the third quarter reports for the South division well in time. She could now verify and audit the correctness of the data before presenting it to the senior management team.
However, there was huge pandemonium in the 4th quarter. Being the end of the financial year; Janushi not only had to present quarterly data, but also the consolidated data for the complete financial year. Apparently, the data provided by Mr. Desai for Q1 and Q2 did not match the data earlier sent by Mr. Karnala. While Mr. Desai’s report showed lower sales figures; Mr. Karnala’s reports showed significantly higher numbers (a difference of 70 percent!!).
The audit committee was summoned to study the reason for the difference, and they were asked to present their report to the management within ten days. The report submitted by them was unthinkable and unimaginable at face value. Their assessment revealed that Mr. Karnala had inflated sales figures and revenue numbers in the last 2 years, and got away by using his coterie with a certain section of the board. Mr. Karnala was called back to India and he eventually lost his job.
What was the trait that differentiated Mr. Karnala and Mr. Desai? Just one word – Integrity. What is the meaning of integrity? Integrity comes from the Latin word integer, meaning whole, integrated, and complete. It is where your beliefs, convictions, thoughts and behaviors are integrated together in your life. It is often said – What you do when no one is looking defines you. That is integrity. “The greatness of a man is not in how much wealth he acquires, but in his integrity and his ability to affect those around him positively.” – Bob Marley
If I had to give one suggestion, to anyone desiring to make a mark in their career, it would be: Walk in integrity. Leaders in organizations must serve as living examples of integrity– and not just at office or during business hours. It has been noticed that leaders without integrity lead with fear and dominate others. It was aptly quoted by Dwight D Eisenhower – “The supreme quality of leadership is unquestionably integrity. Without it, no real success is possible, no matter whether it is on a section gang, a football field, in an army, or in an office.”
Just as we are so particular about considering the brand of a mobile/ television before we decide to purchase it; we must realize that integrity is our brand. However the sad truth is that, just like brands in the business world, our individual brand takes years to build but only seconds to destroy. Over the years, we would have come across so many talented people that fell by the wayside because they were willing to cut corners to achieve their dreams – padding reports, fudging numbers, or enhancing their resume. “I am not bound to win, but I am bound to be true. I am not bound to succeed, but I am bound to live up to what light I have.” – Abraham Lincoln.
Warren Buffet gave advice on how to recruit the right candidate – “You’re looking for three things, generally, in a person – intelligence, energy, and integrity. And if they don’t have the last one, don’t even bother with the first two. I tell them, everyone here has the intelligence and energy — you wouldn’t be here otherwise. But the integrity is up to you. You weren’t born with it, you can’t learn it in school.”
Maintaining integrity in the face of burdens and anxiety requires an incredible amount of courage. But it’s worth the work and the risk. As we traverse ourselves through our lives, we realize that choosing between right and wrong is fairly straight forward but choosing between what could be “right and right” is the more challenging task. It may be choosing between two values that are equally important to us. “You build trust with others each time you choose integrity over image, truth over convenience, or honour over personal gain.”– John Maxwell
Integrity cannot be acquired instantly. One needs to work on it. We must continue to toil till such time that it becomes our habit! After all we live in a world where “the end justifying the means” has become an acceptable school of thought. Walking in integrity would often mean going against the grain of society. Only people with conviction can stand true in integrity. The bible states – “Whoever walks in integrity will be delivered, but he who is crooked in his ways will suddenly fall.” – Proverbs 28:18.
But integrity is not everyone’s cup of tea. It requires courage, determination, and conviction to hold on to your values for a lifetime. “Honesty is a very expensive gift, don’t expect it from cheap people.” – Warren Buffet. At the end of the day, each one of us has to adopt a path in life. Nobody can choose the route for us. It’s an individual decision. Martin Luther King Jr. stated “Every man must decide whether he will walk in the light of creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness.” I remember reading somewhere – Wisdom is knowing the right path to take. Integrity is taking it. So which path do you choose to take?