“Just because a person is qualified for a job, does not mean that he/she is the best person for the job”.

 As a new college graduate, you can imagine how a comment like that made me feel.  For years, I have been told, but really warned, to develop my business acumen so that I could compete in corporate America. I had spent years honing my analytical skills and refining my marketing prowess. I attended every available workshop that promised to develop and mentor women to thrive in corporate America. I competed for the best mentors to develop me, I worked through my social awkwardness to dine with the movers and shakers, and I learned how to dress to exude confidence.  I was ready for success, poised for opportunities and committed to shattering glass ceilings.

But after thirty years in corporate America, I have realized that talent is NEVER enough. Even having the right connections in corner offices no longer ensures upper mobility. Being a rainmaker, of course, helps you get noticed; contributing to the bottom-line and increasing profitability always gets attention. But despite good results and increased revenue, I have learned that personal integrity matters. And the lack of personal integrity hurts organizations in ways that often goes unnoticed or maybe just unacknowledged.

Integrity, the big “I” word, is often discussed in corporate circles. It is often touted as a virtue that is needed and required for success especially in the global marketplace. Everywhere we look we see articles and books promoting the importance of good character, trust, and authenticity. There is so much talk about the need for integrity that one would believe that good character is rewarded and revered more that job performance or results.  We know that’s not true. Performace counts even if the process and policies that generated the results are questionable.

 I still believe that competence is critically important especially as the way and the speed of doing business continues to evolve. Business is happening faster than ever before. Deals are being made differently and the structures of contracts are growing more complex as the world becomes more connected and accessible to emerging markets. Life in the business world is being revolutionized.

But because of the complexity, I believe that character is something that must be and expected, not just espoused. Integrity should be something that’s not just promoted but practiced so that clients, customers, and employees can operate in the space and in the spirit of trust. As technology redefines how we do business and opens international borders, integrity must become the norm.

No, it is not enough just to perform well on your job. To me what’s important is knowing that you are doing business with people who are committed to fairness, excellence and continuous improvement. It is critical to know that cutting corners is never allowed even when there’s immense pressure to exceed revenue projections.

 Let’s be honest. Even through integrity is the buzz word of the day, there are many people who continue to engage in questionable activities and serpentine practices to succeed. Laws are not broken and their behavior, even though questionable, is not illegal. Yet there is still reason to be concerned when people tiptoe on the margins of ethics as if they are walking on a tightrope. And shouldn’t we be concerned when corporations overlook indiscretions to appease stockholders?  Aren’t the deleterious effects on employee morale, customer trust and client retention important?

After 30 years in corporate America, I now understand what my mentor meant. Being competent means nothing without character. Being talented means nothing without trust. Being intelligent means little without integrity. Yes, being qualified for a job does not mean that you are the right person for the job.

Being the right person for the job means that you are competent AND  interested and committed to doing what’s right.

Let’s Dare To Soar Higher As We Lead!


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