Integrity Defined

When I was an F-15 maintenance group commander, a St Louis Air National Guard F-15 crashed because one of it’s four fuselage longerons broke, disintegrating the fuselage and ultimately sending the pilot on a wild ride without an aircraft (he survived with a broken arm).    I believe we grounded our jets for 57 days, using various techniques to evaluate the integrity of these longerons.  What we found was shocking.   Many of the longerons installed in F-15s were not fully in specification (some out of tolerance by 40%) based on 1970s milling issues.   Some of our jets were permanently grounded.

Integrity First – Is the first Core Value of the  US Air Force,  codified in 1997 by General Ronald Folgeman & Secretary Shiela Widnall.     I have contemplated and studied it both in and out of the Air Force, and frankly,  surprisingly, I think they got it right AND wrong at the same time.    Integrity is first but not as defined in the little blue book (AF Core Value Book).

I believe that Integrity is the most important distinction in leadership.  Integrity is the universal truth that defines effective activity from the misaligned.   Integrity is… the coop de grace, it is the holy grail.   It is the “BE” all..

However, it is not “having integrity” that makes us human, it is “not having integrity” that makes us human.   A play on words that is the struggle of most organizations and activities involving us people … or teenagers (sorry, editorial inclusion as I have four teenagers).

OK – a bit of a prelude to many foreseen blog discussions around integrity.   But this blog entry is a stage-setter.  It is the foundation of my leadership syllabus and defines, for me, why I am here (i.e. my integrity).   I request your feedback as you contemplate integrity in your life.

Definitions include complementary ideas like being honest, being of great character, doing the “right” thing, aligning our actions with our words, or honoring our agreements and commitments.    I am not saying that integrity is or is not these things, but integrity is not moral or ethical, it just is…

I believe that integrity means acting in alignment with ones highest purpose of BEing.

It is not that honesty and integrity aren’t similar.   Telling the truth has an ethical implication regarding our words.     Integrity has an fundamental implication that we are living our truth with our actions. Here is a philosophical question, if the “Devil” is the great deceiver, is he is in or out of integrity when deceiving and spreading lies?   My definition would say he is integrity and expecting him to be honest would be foolhardy.

That is the bane of leadership.   How do I keep my organization (or my person) acting in alignment with its integrity/purpose?    That leads to the challenge of leadership.   Who am I (what is my purpose) and What am I currently doing?   (where am I misaligned with my purpose).   When we understand those two positions, then we can act in leadership to realign them.   Thus leadership is ultimately realigning our activities with that which in which we were created.  (I’m talking an organization, but there is certainly a spiritual play here).

To close, imagine that longeron which was designed to maintain loads up to 12 G-forces before breaking.     But if it was actually built it 40% thinner than designed, it is out of integrity with the expected 12-G loads.   Luckily, other factors in the F-15 design limited it to a 9-G aircraft.    And for that reason, the longeron hung in there for as much as 20 years, bending and cracking and fighting to do its job until it couldn’t take it any more.   And once it broke, the accompanying forces destroyed this aircraft and grounded many more.

Where in our lives do we live outside of our integrity.   Bon-bons on the couch?  How about escapism, addictions, pornography, etc.?   Are there stresses and cracks growing in your life or that of your organization that are going to bring it all down?

Like a longeron, living in integrity, is THE critical component to ensure the effectiveness of our well-being and the organizations we serve.

Live in your Truth!

Pierre

 

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