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Eisenhower on Integrity in Business - No Integrity Means No Leadership

Integrity is doing the right thing even when it’s painful to your team or comes at personal cost. - Guest Blogger Cason Shrode, Jones Legacy Ventures CEO

While I was a cadet at West Point, I read a famous quote by Dwight D Eisenhower that stated “The supreme quality for 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. “

As a 19-year-old student at the time, I did not realize how profound of a statement that really was. But now, after serving as an Army Officer and currently leading in the business world, having faced my fair share of character defining decision points, I realize just how powerful the meaning of those words truly are.

In today’s society, the value of Integrity has too easily transitioned into one of those buzzwords that everyone uses because it checks the box. It projects well when speaking to a potential customer or employee. It looks great stated on a website highlighting business values. However, truly living a life of Integrity can be difficult. It can be very uncomfortable. It will require you to take accountability and force you to make personal sacrifices.

In the 1990’s, there was a very successful company in America called Enron, who’s stated values were Integrity, Communication, Respect and Excellence. When describing their value of Integrity, they went on to say “We work with customers and prospects openly, honestly, and sincerely. When we say we will do something, we will do it; when we say we cannot or will not do something, then we won’t do it.”

Sounds very admirable right? That is, until it was discovered that Enron’s success was all based on hiding massive trading losses, forging fraudulent profits, and executing deceiving accounting tricks. I’m sure when the company was founded, they didn’t set out to break the rules. However, when the leadership at Enron began to struggle and face personal costs, they chose the easier wrong over the harder right.

See that’s the thing about Integrity. Integrity is not something you verbalize or demonstrate to others. In fact, it’s just the opposite. Integrity is the choices you make when no one else is looking. It’s doing the right thing even when it’s painful to your team or comes at a personal cost. So, when Eisenhower states that the supreme quality for leadership is Integrity, well it’s because without it, leadership really can’t exist. And without leadership, any sustainable success will be nearly impossible.

As I (Dave) read Cason’s blog, I realized that we used Enron as a classic example of poor character in our book Becoming a Leader of Character. Today the more recent examples are Theranos and FTX. Each business is very different and the problems happened years apart. But the root cause remains the same. It was not a lack of competency - skills, talents, or knowing what to do and how to do it. It was a lack of Integrity that caused a massive failure in leadership at each company.

Enron, Theranos, and FTX were all celebrated for their massive profits and returns for shareholders - initially. But, as Cason says, without leadership, any sustainable success will be nearly impossible.

Cason Shrode is the CEO of Jones Legacy Ventures, a multi-million dollar business, which includes four affiliated companies that all operate in the construction marketplace. Cason is a West Point graduate and served in combat during the Global War on Terror. He also earned an MBA from Southern Methodist University. To learn more:


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