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Walking the Path of Integrity

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By Margot Cairnes, MBA, B.Ed. (Hons)

integrity 15Are you drowning or waving? In Australia we have bush fires, heat waves, floods and cyclones. In North America and Europe there are typhoons, snow storms and big freezes. In South America and Asia there are severe floods, devastating earthquakes and tsunamis.

In the Middle east we have riots and civil unrest. In Africa we have epidemics of disease, poverty and famine. All over the globe family violence is rife. Our world doesn’t look very safe. There are pitfalls, traps, disasters and risks everywhere. The world is changing at a faster rate than ever before, yet we are trying (individually and collectively) to deal with the problems that face us with the same thinking tools and skills that were used by our forebears.

My mother grew up in the Australian bush. Her food was kept cool in a Coolgardie Safe (a wire cage covered with a cloth onto which water was sprayed-when the water evaporated the food stayed cool). She went to school in a horse and buggy. She had no phone, no computer and no TV. When she travelled overseas she went the only way she could – by boat. 

Major institutions (including the family) are being challenged to change with the needs of the people and planet. The political colour of countries such as China and Russia is changing rapidly

During her lifetime, my mother saw the first man land on the moon and she learnt to warm her food using a microwave oven. She saw the introduction of TV, the internet, Facebook, the motor car, the aeroplane and the helicopter. She lived through WW1, WW2, the Vietnam War, the War on Terror and many other conflicts. She saw the rise and fall of the Berlin Wall and the Iron Curtain. She saw many world leaders come and go. She saw women get the vote. She was in fact one of the first highly regarded women in Australian journalism.

The thinking that my mother grew up with became obsolete – it no longer resonated with the changing times. For her, the world moved too fast. It wasn’t simply that she grew old, it was that the world became so very different and the way she was taught to think – to make sense of things – just didn’t fit anymore.

More people live alone now than ever before; we get married, unmarried and remarried. We change jobs and our jobs change. We relocate at the drop of a hat. Nothing we used to take for granted is now reliable. Major institutions (including the family) are being challenged to change with the needs of the people and planet. The political colour of countries such as China and Russia is changing rapidly. The question is how do we need to think to operate ethically in this new world?

The change isn’t about the content of what we think – nor is it about the amount of information we have at our disposal. It’s not about knowledge, it’s about wisdom. Luckily, the knowledge and wisdom that could help us think through the issues at hand already exist. We have the technology to raise our levels of consciousness and thinking.

The challenge is do we have the wit, the political will, the stamina, the awareness and the guide to find these ways and to use them? When we start thinking about wisdom as against information, we move into the area of integrity. It takes huge integrity to decide and say what we believe is right – particularly when others don’t agree with us. It takes great insight to know what our values are and commit to live by them.

It takes personal awareness to notice when we stray from our values. It takes great tact and political skill to live by our values and still build our relationships with those whose values may not accord with our own. Walking the path of integrity is to walk the path of the wise leader – a path less traveled. It is easier to do this in good company. When an organisation decides to walk along the path of integrity, it builds, it lives, creates community and changes the world.

margot 15Margot is the creator of 12 Steps For Business; a strategic leadership and corporate transformation toolkit which enables leaders and organisations to envisage and achieve unprecedented levels of growth and success. 
May 19, 2015
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