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Risking Failure Is An Integrity Test

Would you follow you?

What if everyone else is cheating on the test? Let’s face it, if you are the only person choosing to exercise Integrity, you might put yourself at a disadvantage. Cheating runs rampant in our education system, despite the honor codes and ethics classes. The sad reality is this happens with more than just kids. In 2007, Justin Pope from the Associated Press reported startling numbers:

Graduate school students who admit to cheating:

  • 56 percent of MBA students

  • 54 percent of Masters in Engineering

  • 48 percent of Masters in Education

  • 45 percent of law school students

Imagine it is 2007. If half of the students who received advanced degrees were willing to cheat to get better grades, where are these people now? If they were cheating in their twenties, what are the odds they are cheating in their thirties and forties? These individuals are our leaders in business, engineering, education and the criminal justice system.

Dishonesty is contagious. Our Integrity is tested when we see others cheat to get ahead. What will we do? Is there any reward for standing alone and exercising Integrity when we are surrounded by people who are too scared or prideful to risk failure?

Sometimes there are no external rewards for exercising Integrity. Sometimes the cheater will get the better grade, get the promotion or win the election. Our reward must come from something deeper.

The reward for “doing what is good, right and proper – even at personal cost” is the fact we have strengthened our character. Many tests of Integrity will come. We can’t fool ourselves and believe compromising our Integrity in the little things does not impact our choices when the big test comes. There are no little tests when it comes to our character. Why? Because the ripple effects of our choices continue beyond the moment of testing.

But, if we stand up and do what we know is right at the moment, our choice has a ripple effect. Just like building a muscle, each time we exercise Integrity, we prepare ourselves for the bigger tests which are coming. Instead of compromising and weakening the muscle, we are getting stronger. As we travel the path of life, the tests we face will not be easy. We will have to make choices and overcome our fears and risk failure. But, each time we do, we prove to ourselves—and to others—that we stand for something more important than getting better grades, getting a promotion or winning an election.

Integrity is contagious as well. We prove to others there are people who are not willing to sacrifice who they are. We prove we stand for Integrity. We stand for doing the right thing when things get difficult. This is the type of leader—a Leader of Character—that most people want to follow and most people want to be. Ask yourself this, “Based on what you just read, would you follow you?”

Dig Deep Questions:

  • How would you answer the question: “Would you follow you?”

  • Have you ever cheated to get ahead?

  • If yes, when the next test of your Integrity presents itself, what will you do?


Justin Pope, “Higher education sees rise in dishonesty,” Associated Press, May 19, 2007.


Making a shift towards taking responsibility and living with Integrity is a lifelong journey. We want to partner with you as you practice the habit of Integrity daily, which is why we have created our Habits of Character Action Guides.

The Integrity Action Guide offers you a month of daily, interactive training complete with a daily reading, dig deep questions, weekly processing guides and instructions on how to use the guide both individually and with your team. The Integrity Action Guide is now available here.

We are behind you, championing for you, your teams and your organizations as you become the leader you wish you had. We want to come alongside you as you grow to confidently answer “yes” to the question, “Would you follow you?”

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