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How to Exercise Integrity - Leading in Your Twenties Series

The generation of leaders emerging now needs to be different. If you are in your twenties and are dissatisfied with the status quo, you can not inspire change unless you exercise Integrity. People will not follow you if you exercise situational Integrity. Unfortunately, situational Integrity is too prevalent among our leaders today.

Editor’s note: This is the eighth in a series of 12 blogs written directly to the Twenty-Somethings. This is about you and your future. As you read these blogs, please share them with other people who want ideas on how to lead now and how to develop the Twenty-Something Leaders of our future.

The word Integrity comes from the root word - integer. Integer means whole or pure. That means that part time Integrity is not Integrity. If the only time you exercise Integrity is when there is no risk involved, that is not Integrity.

We discussed Courage as one of the Habits of Character you must develop earlier in this series. Courage is foundational because you can’t be a person of Integrity without it. You must exercise Courage in order to take action or speak up, even when it could hurt you personally.

Andersons' Definition of Integrity

Doing what is good, right, and proper even at personal cost.

Three Steps to Exercise Integrity

Being a person of Integrity is hard when you know you must do the right thing "even at personal cost." The right thing is rarely the easy thing to do. Whether you are in your 50s like me or your 20s like the audience this series is targeting, we all know that Integrity is hard. Yet that is why it is so inspiring!

Here are three steps to exercise Integrity:

  1. Know: You must discern the difference between right and wrong. Deep inside, all of us know what we should do in the vast majority of circumstances. That voice in our head is louder for some people than for others. But, it is still there speaking to us.

  2. Do: You must take action on what you've discerned - even at personal cost. That is where we can all fail. Do we have the Courage to do the right thing, even if we must sacrifice something to do it?

  3. Say: You must speak out and say why you took action. Silent Integrity is lacking. The Courage to speak out is what inspires others to follow and begin to make change happen.

"Right is right, even if everyone is against it; wrong is wrong even if everyone is for it."

- William Penn

What Could Go Wrong?

Many of you reading this may be thinking "Get real, Dave. Everyone around me is cutting corners, lying to cover their butts, or are too afraid to speak up and do what is right. If I did it, I would be the only one."

You may be right. Parents and teachers have told us that honesty is always the best policy. They told us that people in authority (parents, teachers, bosses...) will be thankful and reward our honesty. But the truth is, that does not always happen.

Many times the person of Integrity will not see the tangible rewards when they exercise Integrity. There might even be ridicule or more severe consequences. At the least, there will be other people warning you against speaking up or taking action because THEY fear the consequences.

"All that is required for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing."

- Edmund Burke

Yes. You might be standing alone for a while. But, the exercise of Integrity will strengthen your character, and prepare you to lead when the larger tests in life come.

Integrity is not situational. Integrity is an everyday exercise that requires you to make a sacrifice. If you are looking to change things, you must (we all must) change who we are on the inside - our character. We must exercise Integrity in the small things so we are ready for the big tests to come.

Leading in your twenties is not easy because many of you have not climbed the leadership ladder - yet. Your time to have the title of leader is coming. Will you be ready?

You can begin to lead now by exercising Integrity. If you follow the Know - Do - Say steps above, your influence will grow and you will soon be the people others are excited to follow. That is when you can really make lasting change happen at work, in your personal lives, and in our culture.


  • What exercises in Integrity are the most difficult for you in today's environment?

  • How does someone else’s Integrity affect the people around them?


Here is a quick assessment that will take you 5 minutes to figure it out. Nobody will ever see your results but you.

Warning: If you are not going to be honest with yourself this is a worthless assessment.

To take the assessment use the QR code above or go to

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