Developing Trust with Integrity
When I was about 10 years old, my dad and I were out in the bean fields checking the irrigators on our crop farm in North Central Minnesota. We grew semi-truck loads of dark red kidney beans for chili and other foods. On our way from one field to another, my dad swerved the pickup truck over because he saw some trash in the middle of the public dirt road. I knew that I was supposed to “help keep the land clean” so I opened my pickup door and reached down to pick up the trash. It was a Playboy magazine. My dad quickly kicked it under the seat of the pickup truck.
We silently drove from field to field and from irrigator to irrigator. I kept thinking about how Dad said that kind of magazine was not the right way to treat women or to have a pure mind, not to mention how it could hurt your wife and marriage. Many times I heard him encourage our tough hired men to grow stronger marriages. I knew that he believed pornography was both damaging and wrong. Yet my dad said nothing about the trash we found.
About midmorning we came into the home area and shop. My dad went to the shop and started working on a tractor. I went into the house to help my mother. A little while later, my mom asked me to get my dad for something. For some reason, I stopped at the small garage door window that looked out toward the shop. I was at least 50 yards from my dad, but I could still see him well. I stood still and watched my dad for a few minutes before going out. There is no way he could see or hear me. And there was no reason he would think I, or anyone, was watching at that moment.
I watched him pull himself out from under the tractor. He opened the door to the blue Chevy pickup truck, reached under the seat, and grabbed the magazine. Then, without glancing down for a single second, he walked with his arm outstretched straight over to our shop stove, where he threw the magazine into the fire.
Dad’s integrity was challenged that day, but he proved, when nobody was looking, that his character was unshakable. How many fathers, after telling their kids to stay away from such material, would have been tempted to have a quick peek inside? It might seem like a little thing, throwing some trash into the fire, but to me, it was an enormous statement about Dad’s character. Most importantly, it was proof that he could be trusted.
Doing the right things when no one is looking creates the habits for when people are. What do you think is the most important quality for a leader to have? In a 2002 American Management Association survey, 1,500 managers were asked what they wanted from their leaders. The number one answer, garnering 82% of the responses: Integrity.