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A Biblical Basis for Integrity in a Business Leader

For Christian and Jewish business leaders, integrity can have considerably more depth than merely
consistency between word and deed. In the Bible, a sustained adherence to substantive ethical
principles is part of integrity. To be sure, this could be said of integrity from a non-religious, or secular,
standpoint. The Bible adds a consistency whose nature transcends ethics, and thus adds a deeper
dimension available to those leaders who are people of the book.
In the Bible, the word integrity implies high moral standards, especially concerning the quality of
honesty.
1
In the Psalms, integrity has the broader quality of righteousness, as if the air that a person
breathes or the ground one treads. A right relation with God, rather than merely ethical conduct, is the
basis here. Vindicate me, O Lord, for I have walked in my integrity.
2
Later in the same Psalm, we find,
I walk in my integrity; redeem me, and be gracious to me.
3
From a divine perspective, righteousness is
laudatory, especially if it has been held to in a condition of adversity (hence the request to be
vindicated).
For leaders of business organizations, sticking with honesty can come with a cost not only personally,
but also to the organizations profitability. Omitting the decision recently reached to close a plant when
confronted by a labor union official about an announced wage freeze, not informing mid-level managers
of matters pertaining to them but not typically shared with them (i.e., executive elitism), and letting a
supplier assume that the contract will be renewed can all be justified in terms of the bottom-line, but
not biblically. This cleft can be a slippery slope in terms of integrity, and thus of righteousness in front of
the persons Maker. So it is important that such a leader make a habit of being willing and able to
explain his or her statements and/or actions in public.
4
Transparency rather than secrets is the mark of a
leader who has integrity. Hence with the honesty also must come courage, and both must be enduring
rather than momentary.
Consistency is a very important aspect of integrity in the Bible. In addition to courageously sticking with
honest righteousness, a leader not making arbitrary decisionsnot saying one thing one day and
something radically different the nexthas integrity from the biblical standpoint.
5
Such a leader has a
deeply-rooted standard, or measure, by which he or she makes decisions on a daily basis. Like a tomato
plant held up by a well-grounded wooden rod, an upstanding leader can withstand the constant
temptations to sacrifice honesty, courage, and righteousness more generally on the altar of momentary
or even long-term profitability. This holds even in the face of a leaders fiduciary duty to the
stockholders. Such a leader must therefore be willing to die in his or her post rather than risk losing
favor with God. In Pauls terms, such a leader must be willing to take up his or her cross and follow
Christ, rather than earthly mammon.
The consistency demanded by the ancient biblical voices is not merely in terms of particular ethical
principles, such as compassion, fairness, and justice. Not even consistency in how a leader balances
these virtues when they conflict is the rest of the story. A person consistent in word and deed, and from
day to day is a being who is solid in the sense of being internally integrated, and thus whole. Solomon
suggests that integrity is not so much a virtue itself as it is a complex of virtues, the virtues working
together to form a coherent character, an identifiable and trustworthy personality.
6
From this interior
wholeness flows a life well integrated.
7

People within a company, as well as those in stakeholder groups in society, can thus rely on a leader
who has integrity under biblical auspices. Such a leader does not flutter like a torn flag in the wind, but
stands up to political pressure if only from an intuitive sense of what is rightmeaning not only
ethically, but also with respect to his or her standing with God. Such a leader does not sell out at the
first (or next) squall of pressure.
Ultimately, integrity in terms of consistency from a biblical basis manifests as God and human beings
acting together in harmony, with the human qualities of faithfulness and peace responding to the divine
attributes of love and righteousness.
8
The importance of justice, peace, and rooting both in a right
relationship with God is of concern to a leader with integrity.
9
Peace and justice pertain not only within
an organization, but in the wider society and even the world. Hence a business leader with integrity
feels an obligation to speak and act beyond the financial interests of his or her company. Corporate
citizenship can therefore have a biblical basis. Of course, peace and justice worldwide is in everyones
interest (and every companys), but oftentimes such a diffused and long-range benefit is too pallid a
motivator when it comes to putting effort into externalities that would benefit everyone.



1
Richard Higginson, Transforming Leadership: A Christian Approach to Management (SPEK: London, 1996), p. 56.
2
Psalm 26:1.
3
Psalm 26:11.
4
Higginson, p. 57.
5
Higginson, p. 56.
6
Robert Solomon, Ethics and Excellence: Cooperation and Integrity in Business (Oxford University Press, 1992), p.
168.
7
Higginson, p. 58.
8
See Psalm 85:10-13 as well as the prophets vision of shalom, and Isaiah 11:6-9.
9
Higginson, p. 59.