Whenever I write about the leadership quality of integrity, I get comments from those who either don’t like my definition or don’t think it’s a black and white issue or just plain think I’m some kind of naive nut who is up in the night. This has been true as recently as the last few days.
The headline for the Harvard Business Review’s, The Daily Stat, reads: Male Professionals with Higher Ethical Standards Earn Less. At least according to a study conducted by the University of Memphis. Andrew Hussey went through data on “thousands of students” and came up with the following:
- Male business professionals who self-report high ethical standards earn, on average, 3.4 percent less than their peers who don’t report having such standards
- Men who reported that their MBA programs enhanced their ethical standards earned 6.5 percent less than those who didn’t
- Female professionals who self-report high ethical standards receive no pay penalty
- Women who said their schooling raised their ethical standards actually earned a 5.5 percent premium
I guess I was wrong. Ethics and integrity don’t seem to matter to corporate America. At least according to this survey. Needless to say, lying to employees, team members and customers seems to be the way for male professionals to get ahead. I can’t help but wonder why it might be different for women. Maybe we expect women to be honest and don’t have that same expectation of men. I must admit, that stat is a mystery to me.
I understand all the shades of grey that exist when we start talking about honesty, ethics and integrity. There are lots of reasons to bend one’s personal standard of integrity (it appears now that money might even be one of them).
That being said, I still believe integrity matters when leading a team or leading an organization. In an economy where we need people to take individual ownership of what they’re doing, perform at a higher level and create innovative products that create new markets and resonate with customers—integrity is still the supreme quality of leadership.
And yes, I’m naive enough to believe that it’s just that black and white.