Encompasses the sum total of a person’s set of values — his private moral code. A breach of any of these values will damage the individual’s integrity. Integrity, closely related to the word integer, refers to a notion of completeness or wholeness.

The Value in Action

“Naught Without Labor”
By George W. Spasyk (Michigan 1949), Executive Vice President, 1969–1990, As Published in the Cross & Crescent, August 1976

The cheating scandal that rocked West Point last spring, and which has yet to be fully resolved, has brought into focus once more the need to stress, at every level of society, the importance of integrity. It is especially important in the formative, impressionable college years of the late teens and early twenties. That the problem is widespread is reflected in Time magazine (June 7, 1976): “Plainly, the military academies have lots of company when it comes to cheating. Educators agree that intense pressure for better grades is at least partly to blame. An ill-prepared student may panic and copy from a classmate from a test simply to pass. More often, it seems, the cheater is not the marginal student but the one with aspirations for graduate school or law school.” Time also reports these observations at several institutions: Johns Hopkins’ Dean Sigmund Susking [says], “Cheating is not endemic, it’s epidemic.”Yale’s Dean Eva Balogh describes cheating as “rampant.” At Lehigh University, a telephone poll shows that fully 47 percent of the students have cheated on exams, and at the University of Southern California, the student newspaper reports that as many as 40 percent have resorted to plagiarism.Gen. Bruce C. Clarke, (U.S. Army, Retired), a West Point graduate and later a Lambda Chi Alpha initiate at the University of Tennessee, states, “It is difficult for me to accept this situation as the standard and the norm of the honesty and ethics we look to in providing our nation’s leaders in the third hundred years of its existence.” In a recent letter to me, Gen. Clarke said further,“I firmly believe that the foundation of the essentials for success of a college graduate takes place in undergraduate days. College fraternities have a lot to do with this.“It is thought-provoking to consider that probably less than 20 percent of young graduates who enter our government at several levels, have been to a college that has stressed honesty and ethics.“All the men involved in Watergate were college graduates, including the president. I am sure they studied many subjects they needed less than honesty and ethics. As we go into our third centennial, I suggest that you emphasize this if Lambda Chi Alpha is to prosper.”Josiah Bunting, president of Briarcliff College, an ex-Marine, Rhodes Scholar, and former West Point history teacher, certainly agrees with Gen. Clarke with reference to the Academy. Bunting is quoted as saying, “If I were in charge of West Point, I would throw out everyone who cheated. All those who had certain knowledge of the cheating and did not come forward until now, I would throw them out too….The word of one officer to another has got to be utterly reliable. You can’t afford to have any doubts about somebody’s word in combat.”Time also quotes Stanford professor Lyle M. Nelson in response to a student who had written him an apology for plagiarism. The professor wrote, “Finally, what does it matter to you if all other students cheat? Isn’t there room for one honest person who says, ‘But my standards won’t permit me to do so’? What happens to a democratic form of society if all citizens say, ‘I have no obligations to rules and standards of decency and honesty’?”I am thus reminded of a young Lambda Chi Alpha undergraduate who, ill prepared in a course he was taking from a Lambda Chi Alpha professor, wrote at the bottom of his final exam, “Yours in ZAX.” He received the “F” he so richly deserved, and upon receiving his exam paper back, noted that the professor had written at the end of it, “Kalepa ta Kala.”

The supreme quality for leadership is unquestionably integrity. Without it, no real success is possible….

Dwight D. Eisenhower

The Take Away

Do what is right all of the time. Walk the talk.

People of integrity do the right things not because it’s the easy way or because they have no choice. They choose to do right because their character will permit nothing less. Leaders with an understanding of the value of integrity always act according to principles, not just what may be expedient. They make their values and principles known and always act in ways consistent with them. Any failure to do so erodes integrity and sows the seeds of mistrust. Leaders who possess a highly-refined sense of integrity always strive to be ethical decision makers. They understand that being ethical doesn’t mean a black or white view of right and wrong but rather, always striving to discern what is just and honorable. If you want to instill Lambda Chi Alpha values in others, you must internalize them yourself and actively teach them to others. You must lead by example. Remember, it’s always easy to be an ethical decision maker or to take a principled stand when there is no pressure to do otherwise.