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Dr. Curtis L. Odom Headshot

What Happened to Integrity Among Leaders?

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As a result of the recent presidential campaign season, I became a big supporter of Politifact. I would check the site regularly because it felt like half of what was being said by both parties was either a blatant lie or it was a twisted accusation of the other party or candidate. I did not like it, but it is what American politics has become. Sadly, it has always been this way in some form or another, but now we are so inundated with information that it was hard not to notice it. And it was a real shame. In my opinion, political elections are supposed to be about core values. And when I think about core values, the first value that comes to my mind is integrity. It matters, and most importantly it matters in leadership.

Unfortunately, we have created a system bent on sound bites and quick hitting verbal assaults. We like the one-liner and a good zinger. But as leaders, this is not realistic. It does not provide context and it does not enable people to understand the whole story, the full account of what has happened or of what has been said. The details are critical elements to any story (and this is coming from someone who prefers the big picture view) we need to be able to speak truth in our politics, our boardrooms and our offices. We need people to stand up for integrity. Without it, there is no trust, and without trust there is no real communication.

Beyond the political realm, take a look at what has recently happened in the Citigroup Boardroom recently with Vikram Pandit. A day after announcing corporate earnings, the CEO abruptly resigned. Millions of dollars of investment decisions were just made the day before based on the implied trust that Pandit would continue to lead the company and build for a better future. It did not happen. He bailed. But why? Early indications are a lack of trust from within the boardroom. They had seen enough of Pandit, which is their prerogative, but it brings to question their integrity when both parties knowingly go into the earnings call and act as if nothing is happening. Investors depend on reliable and accurate information to make decisions, and this impacts too many people.

Leaders need to step up and act with integrity when so much is on the line -- politically or financially, because integrity matters.

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CEOs Who Look Like Villains
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