Published in The Sun 4 February 2013

I WONDER how many of us will pass an integrity evaluation if there is a comprehensive, all-encompassing test? If there is one integrity index with different indicators and levels to measure a person’s integrity, it will be telling indeed.

Let’s face it, integrity can be measured at many levels and occurs along a continuum. As human beings we are far from perfect. We falter on life’s multifarious journeys in our bid to reach the state of moral soundness or integrity. Yes, at its most generic level integrity refers to moral qualities viz uprightness, honesty and trustworthiness, and the consistency of one’s principles and actions.

How many of us can honestly say we have all of these values or at least some of them? How many can truthfully say they have never erred on the side of weakness in every aspect of their life? If we are lucky, we were influenced to walk the straight and narrow by the people we grew up with – our parents and elders, teachers and mentors, peers and friends. In childhood, the books we read or the films we watched which depicted outstanding characters can leave a lasting impression. In the workplace, we know colleagues who have outstanding character traits. But there are also nice people we like and respect whom we know have slipped along the way.

Frankly, we are as pure or impure as the role models of integrity we look up to and associate closely with plus the circumstances of our life. Some people who are said to have the highest professional integrity crumble when their personal integrity is in question. They may show exemplary standards of conduct and behaviour in the office, but at home they are unethical husbands and fathers.

I therefore do not agree with Tunku Abdul Aziz when he said at the recent Leadership and Integrity forum “You either have integrity or you don’t.” I agree more with the floor speaker who pointed out that it is the “lapses” in integrity that we should seriously worry about. Why did we allow our guard to slip? Why were we persuaded to compromise our principles? What personal considerations tempted us to make a less than professional decision? Why are we not consistent in manifesting good character traits?

Which leads to the question of good character and how to define it? And more importantly, how do we determine whether people have character and integrity and high ethical standards? A simple test is to observe people’s behaviour when they admit they are wrong. Observe the people who cannot admit they are wrong and constantly blame someone else. This tells you a lot about their values and principles. Another is to observe how people treat subordinates or those lower in status whom they do not have a need for.

Googling integrity evaluation and testing on the internet revealed the usual mundane questions that are asked to evaluate honesty such as:

  • In the past 12 months, how many times have you lied to a spouse, boyfriend, girlfriend or the significant other about something significant?
  • Have you told the truth knowing it would be personally costly even when you could have gotten away with lying or concealing information?

It would certainly be worthwhile to design a comprehensive integrity index with the relevant indicators for personal integrity and more specific indicators for the professional, academic and political spheres within which there will be specially designed open and multiple-choice questions to elicit the relevant answers.

Among the indicators for personal integrity could be: honesty and truthfulness; principles and values; beliefs and ideals

An ice-breaking question such as “What family values are passed down by your mother and father?” is often an acid test of character. The general assumption is that individuals uphold the same values and qualities as their parents.

In the professional sphere of academia the indicators of integrity could be: honesty in research; diligence in teaching; and respect for student development.
A pertinent question university lecturers and professors should answer is:

“What is the main priority in your academic career?” or “Whose needs would you place higher – students or your own?”

In the corporate sector, the influence of character on decision making has become all the more important in the wake of corporate scandals. The character factor has assumed new prominence and subjective character assessment must precede the more objective integrity indicators. The normal résumé, references, interview performance are proving to be unreliable indications of character and require a more rigorous multi-pronged evaluation by superiors and peers alike.

The political arena where decisions are made by the government for its citizens must surely take precedence. An all-encompassing integrity index must be in place to evaluate our political leaders especially when we are about to face the general election. We must elect leaders who have good character and high standards of integrity.


5 Responses to “INTEGRITY TESTS”

  1. 1 Thumb Logic
    February 5, 2013 at 10:49 pm

    No one will pass test for integrity because Man is the only member of the animal kingdom who has the ability to hide his thoughts with words. He can think of one think and say something diffferent. He has the God given ability to be even deceived by his own deception and take the right action for the wrong reasons. That is why as far as the state is concerned the test for integrity of its leaders is restricted to the what they do when they are in power and in the conduct of the affairs related to the state..

    If one looks at the various rules and laws it will be observed that all action in the name of the State is around accountability. Leaders must be accountable and should not personalise national affairs and nationalise personal affairs. They are only required to show intergrity in the conduct of the affairs of the State. And I am inclined to believe that a leader who shows intergrity in the conduct of the affairs of the state will by and large show a similar level of integrity in the conduct of his personal affairs.

    So long as the sheep can deliver ‘virgin wool’ we should not be over-concerned about what they do in their spare time.

  2. 2 ninitalk
    February 7, 2013 at 3:51 pm

    If integrity can be measured along a continuum (which I think is the way to approach the evaluation of integrity as the article suggests), I’m confident many will score more than 50% – which will be a PASS.

    I agree leaders at all levels are accountable by the laws of the nation and its states, other “rules and laws” /corporate governance standards/professional code of ethics/ parliamentary code of conduct etc. For each sector of society there are actually clear rules as to what is expected of the members. Every religion lays down moral standards for conduct and behaviour.

    It is therefore possible to draw up an all-encompassing integrity index to cover personal integrity as well as professional and work – related ones. To some extent there will be a correlation between the two unless the individuals concerned are unstable.

    I’m not sure I agree that the leaders of society can do what they like in their spare time. Leaders are role models and any aspect of their behaviour will be open to scrutiny. Of course, if the society is permissive or liberal they will forgive him his trespasses. Most societies these days will not tolerate leaders who are sexually promiscuous

  3. 3 Thumb Logic
    February 8, 2013 at 9:08 pm

    “Most societies these days will not tolerate leaders who are sexually promiscuous”, but they will tolerate financial wrongdoings, accumulation of wealth, and abuse of power while they are in office.

  4. 4 ninitalk
    February 8, 2013 at 10:30 pm

    I don’t agree with you here Thumb Logic

  5. 5 Thumb Logic
    February 9, 2013 at 3:18 pm

    Happy and Prosperous New Year of the SNAKE.

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