What is the Cost of Lost Integrity?

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This blog is a is a guest post and companion to the interview with Ken Wylie, Founder of Mountains for Growth on  VoiceAmerica “Innovative Leaders Driving Thriving Organizations” on January 2, 2018 Buried in an Avalanche, Finding Deeper Meaning in Failure.  

Last week I was instructing one of my rock climbing courses to a group of students on Quadra Island just east of Campbell River BC. The rain kept us undercover for the better part of a couple of days. When the students were done with learning technical systems we changed gears and challenged them with the classic “Spiders web” problem.  The task is to pass your entire group through the web without anyone touching and alerting the “spider” of your presence. The web in this case was a matrix of cords tied together to simulate a human sized web. With all of the safety rules in place, like. . .”no diving through the web,” my co instructor, Graeme White presented a final challenge to the students when he said, “Your job is to self police yourselves and monitor your own performance around touching the web.” The students enthusiastically accepted the task.

It was a difficult web and the students began to feel like the task was impossible to get everyone to the other side. At one point, with two thirds of the crew through the web, one of them touched and had to be sent back to the starting side to be passed through again. The challenge was that only one person saw the web being touched. Every other member of the group of 8 thought it was a clean pass. I could see the individual, who had called the team out, begin to squirm but he held fast to his truth. Then one of the participants said, “He is lying” in a desperate effort to have the group succeed. “But why would he lie about something like that? I queried.

I remember being a young climber and lying about a greater success on a climb than I had actually achieved. Wanting so badly to be a person who was perceived as being a success I fabricated a story. I carried that lie for years at great personal cost. What is it about getting through by any means possible that is so alluring? Why is our integrity so easily scrapped for false achievement?

Recently I was at the Volkswagon repair shop and I said to the mechanic something about the recent challenges the company was going through as “cheating”. He said, “I don’t see it that way.” I asked, “How do you see it?” He replied, “We send students to university where the culture is to do what is necessary to get the best grade possible. Then we put them to work where they need to solve problems and they do what is necessary to solve the challenge at hand. We have taught the members of our society to win and it is not seen as cheating.”  I nodded thinking that it is a cultural construct rather than ill will. But it is still dishonest if it is not something we can be transparent about.

The problem is that when we cash in our integrity for false achievement we exchange something profound. Self love. It is impossible to love ourselves if we are not honest because we are not in line with our best self. We all look in the mirror every morning and if we have been impeccably honest, we like who we see reflected back at us.

The dictionary’s first definition of integrity is about being honest and having strong moral principles. The second definition is the state of being whole and undivided. I think one leads to the other. If we are honest, we become whole. Being whole is the best success in such a fragmented world.

To become a more innovative leader, please consider our online leader development program. For additional tools, we recommend taking leadership assessments, using the Innovative Leadership Fieldbook and Innovative Leaders Guide to Transforming Organizations, and adding coaching to our online innovative leadership program. We also offer several workshops to help you build these skills.

About the Author:

Ken Wylie has been on faculty at the University of Calgary, Mount Royal University and Thompson Rivers University in Canada in adventure-based academic programs. Ken founded Mountains for Growth in 2013 to help individuals and groups gain personal insight and wisdom through their mountain adventures. Ken has developed the concept of “Adventure Literacy”® based on the idea that adventure is always presenting information to us, our job is to listen and harvest lessons.

Ken holds a bachelor of physical education (Outdoor Pursuits), is a member of the International Federation of Mountain Guides Associations, and the Association of Canadian Mountain Guides and is the author of “Buried” 2014, which is about his path navigating through tragedy.


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