The concept of integrity is complex and subject to many interpretations as it means different things to different people and varies based upon the context of use (Baxter et al. 11; Duggar 2). What is in agreement is that integrity is a much-desired concept that is minimally understood by individuals and organizations who emphasize its importance on a continuous basis. This paper defines integrity by attempting to unify the various aspects and intuitions associated with the concept.
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Available literature demonstrates that integrity cannot be defined as a single trait since it relates to an agglomeration of diverse principles, aspects, and intuitions (Baxter et al. 11). In some contexts, the concept has been equated to moral values, ethical professionalism, honesty, objectivity, straightforwardness, consistency of word and deed, dependability, trust, and unblemished reputation (Baxter et al. 5).
These aspects can be collapsed into one meaningful definition of integrity, bearing in mind that the concept means more than these individual variables. For example, a morally upright individual may fail the integrity test by failing to demonstrate the consistency of actions. Similarly, research has found that moral values are culturally specific and are often in contrast to the tenets of integrity (Barnard, Shurink, and De Beer 42). As such, it is important to find a middle ground in attempting to develop a proper definition of integrity.
This paper relies on descriptions of other authors to define integrity as a form of self-initiated identity which reinforces self-integration and wholeness of character in individuals to allow them to live a life based on universally agreed upon moral values and principles. The word “identity” has been used to underscore the fact that individuals should have an inner drive to do what is morally right, rather than being forced to comply through coercion or strict observance of professional code of conduct (Barnard, Shurink, and De Beer 43). The principle of self-integration has been incorporated in the definition to underscore the fact that individuals should follow their moral compass as well as act coherently and harmoniously in identifying their desires and volitions to minimize conflict of reputation (Baxter et al. 11).
As such, a fully integrated individual should not only be guided by his or her moral compass in doing what is right but also demonstrate coherent and harmonious deeds and actions in accordance with the expectations set by society. These clarifications provide a proper understanding of integrity and differentiate it from simple definitions that describe it in terms of being honest or respectful.
The final dimension in the definition relates to living a life that is grounded on universally agreed upon moral values and principles. Although many definitions of integrity have a component of moral values and principles (Duggar 4), they nevertheless fail to underscore the fact that moral values and principles are culturally and contextually specific, hence the need to stress the universality of value systems. For example, some moral values used in Western countries (e.g., respect for homosexuals) are not internalized in most African and Asian countries. As such, an African man cannot be accused of lacking integrity for disrespecting homosexuals, yet he has been socialized to view homosexuality as an unnatural act.
This paper has been successful in demonstrating that a proper definition of integrity should encompass components of self-initiated identity, self-integration, the wholeness of character, and universally agreed-upon moral values. Overall, it is evident that the concept of integrity goes beyond the general definitions provided in most readings.
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Barnard, Antoni, Willem Schurink and Marie De Beet. “A conceptual Framework of Integrity.” SA Journal of Industrial Psychology 34.2 (2008): 40-49. Academic Search Premier. Web.
Baxter, Jim, James Dempsey, Chris Megone and Jongseok Lee. Real Integrity: Practical solutions for Organizations seeking to Promote and Encourage Integrity, 2012. Web.
Duggar, Jan Warren. The Role of Integrity in Individual and Effective Corporate Leadership, 2009. Web.