The English word ‘integrity’ is derived from the Latin word ‘integritas’ and generally denotes anything that is still as it should be in undiminished or in unimpaired condition. In other words anything that is in any way worse than it is supposed to be or has become weaker than its original power is considered to have lost its integrity. However, this is purely a descriptive meaning of the word. The word integrity has a strong normative content of ‘what we should do’ or ‘what we must do’, the rules that we are supposed to follow in the society. Adherence to moral and ethical principles; soundness of moral character; honesty are some of the practice that are associated with the term ‘integrity’. Regarding losing parts of its original powers and divergence to a situation that is weaker or any way worse than it is supposed to be is explained by Mahatma Gandhi as “there are seven things that will destroy us: Wealth without work; Pleasure without conscience; Knowledge without character; Religion without sacrifice; Politics without principle; Science without humanity and Business without ethics. Integrity, whether it is personal, moral, cultural, religious, national, scientific or in business contains the value of fairness based on belief (B) and obligation (O). Whatever may be the form of integrity under discussion the core proposition and control is with ‘self’. Actions by individuals participating in a team work seen in the organizations should be analyzed in terms of a process. In an organization we are entrusted with some responsibility and we are supposed to perform as per the laid down policies with fairness. It is often felt that the ones that are active and eagerly taking actions are under scrutiny and the ones passing the bucks are rewarded. To dispel such misconception it is pertinent to discuss the subject ‘integrity a way of life’ in the light of ancient wisdom and the learning from the world leaders.
It is mentioned that action is better than inaction. No accomplishment is possible in a state of inertia. We have to perform our duty at all times. Activity of life none can completely forsake and live – even the idle man has to maintain his body. Work is essential for survival and that is seen from the nature also. Our body is constantly working to stay alive and fit. A body not properly worked upon or taken care through both physical and mental action turns to a burden after a period. A weak and diseased body due to inaction becomes not only a burden to self but also to the family that sustains the relationship. When idleness hypnotizes the ego into inactivity, it may bring no apparent trouble, whereas evil actions may swiftly result in dire miseries. Similarly in an organization action by the employees is essential for a healthy work environment, sustainability and growth. Inaction by any employee not only acts against the growth of the organization but also on the self. The habitually idle man and the unscrupulous business man, however, have one obstacle in common- both find it very difficult to change their respective habits and so remain enslaved.
As wrong business exploitation is a social crime, idleness is a spiritual crime that debases the human being. The nature of right action is performing all works as obligation. So, first action at the right perspective is essential to improvise through core values like making integrity a way of life. To make anything a way of life, to begin with, the ‘life’ has to be alive and kicking. Oprah Winfrey once said “Real integrity is doing the right thing, knowing that nobody’s going to know whether you did it or not.”
The next question that arises is what should be the way to work or how actions need to be performed. The answer to this lies in the very original concept of self less work. We have to detach our ‘self’ from the work. The work has to be carried out on its merit and we need not get involved through self attachment or desire. The objective or target would be met only when we will work without any personal attachment. Action without self attachment is the way to work. So, action is better than inaction and action has to be carried out without any self attachment and only then the objective of the organization would be met. Therefore always conscientiously we have to perform good material actions and spiritual actions without attachment. By doing all actions without attachment one obtains the highest and material actions performed with desire leads us away from the target. But to achieve the objective is this the only way and will that happen automatically to all the employees or there is any role of leadership here. The pertinent question is does Leadership plays any role in meeting the Moksha or the objective.
Example speaks louder than words. It is said that what the leaders do the followers would emulate. By his mere presence one who has reformed himself is able to reform thousands. Whatever the Leaders would consider as authentic and as an important duty the follower also would tend to consider the same. The reference of leaders and followers are relative.
A follower in the organization in any department may be a great leader at home or the society beyond the organization. In fact all of us are Leaders at some point of our action. And as a Leader all should remember the fundamentals that what Leaders do other observe and follow. Like a rose he diffuses his fragrance to all. The importance shown on a subject or activity by a Leader is also taken in the same spirit by the followers. If the mind indulges in moods or anger, the senses will exhibit gloom or wrath; but if the mind is blissful, the senses too will register bliss. Whatever the mind sees and stresses will be blindly followed by the inclination, moods, desires, and habits. If integrity has to be made a way of life, the Leaders in us have to make it a way of life so that others can observe and follow. Here Leader- follower relationship would be changing from one action to the other but the common understanding would be that in any action integrity to be made a way of life by the Leadership position for the follower to also make it a way of life. Dr A P J Abdul Kalam said, ‘Let me define a leader. He must have vision and passion and not be afraid of any problem. Instead, he should know how to defeat it. Most importantly, he must work with integrity’.
This is understood when we are discussing about a relationship of Leader and follower in an individual capacity. It is said that relinquish all activities to the core values devoid of egotism and expectations. In a large and diverse organization how the flow would take place? Who would be actually the Leader so that the whole organization is following the objective? Is it only an individual or a group of individuals for all to follow or something much greater to guide the organization as a whole to the followers? Here come the core values of the organization.
The core values of the organization drives the vision and the vision fuels the business. The core values of the organization are the supreme and we are all working like a follower to that. So, with our conscience and knowledge all employees to surrender to the core values and work without any desire and fear. Actions to be driven by the core values and followed like a leader by all to compete in the market place. Competition is to be fought as a team being driven by the core values and that would make integrity a way of life. Sincere achievers do not renounce true duties or the proper activities necessary to perform them. They overcome egotism which makes one responsible as the doer and as the receiver of good and bad actions. A true performer feels that since the organization has entrusted them with an objective he alone is responsible of all their activities. They work for the target without worrying knowing it is the core values that are working through their soul faculties. The actions of selfish men spring from desires born of ego hopes. A dedicated employee works neither at dictates of egotism nor at those of selfish desires. He is devoid of “I-ness”. Since he is working for the organization he has no individual desire, nor does he hope to attain any material goal.
What are the causes of hindrance on the way to make integrity a way of life in meeting the objective or Moksha and who our enemies? Once we understand that, practicing integrity a way of life would be natural.
When greed is unmet it transforms into anger. Hence greed and anger out of that rage are synonymous. Material want at times engulfs us so much that vision is blinkered and narrow. We have to consider them as our enemy. Born of the activating attribute of Nature, it is desire; it is anger, the impelling forces full of unappeasable crabbing and great evil. ‘Know this to be the foulest enemy here on earth.
While habit is the automatic force that impels man to act even against his will, the root cause of compulsive action is the Nature- instigated delusive duo of desire and its corollary of anger, or frustrated desire’. Desires are silken threads of material pleasures which the spider of habit continuously spins around the soul to form the shrouding cocoons of ignorance. Since this pair binds man to a world of illusions and quite destroys his ability to recollect his true omnipresent nature of all- satisfying divine bliss, there can be no fouler foe than this. Desire and anger can never be appeased by fulfillment, not even by control over all mater. Every material desire leads man farther away from bliss, delaying his task of finding the way back to his native state of absolute peace. The real enemy is within us in the form of desire and anger. The inner weakness need to be overcome to make integrity a way of life. The process is not difficult and has been guided very well by the wise. The Bhagavad Gita says first we have to control our senses or the ‘ Indriyas’ and kill the destructive desire or ‘Kama’ within. It calls for destroying the material want within by controlling our senses and become free from within.
Therefore, first discipline the senses, and then destroy desire, the simple annihilator of wisdom and Self- realization. Sense acts create sense habits. Sense habits create sense desires. Sense desires create sense acts.
This vicious circle is to be avoided. The self-disciplined employee who does not enslave himself to the inordinate demands of, for instance, his gustatory servant, the appetite, finds that his desires for food remains normal, obedient to his wisdom. But if he indulges in a constant desire to eat and unnatural state is created in which the evil desire is repeatedly fed by fresh acts of greedily swallowing food. Pride, power, greed, anger, possessions have to be won over by self-control to attain peace and wisdom to make integrity a way of life. The inspiration may be drawn from Dr A P J Abdul Kalam who said “No matter what is the environment around you, it is always possible to maintain brand of integrity.”
Chief General Manager, Head of IndianOil marketing in the North East & SLC Assam