A Story About Integrity: "The New Emperor"
Integrity is one of the qualities that is often talked about in connection with leadership but is not always easy to define. It includes honesty, decency, ethics, authenticity, and uprightness, but is at one and the same time, not any of these and yet more than them. It is the one quality that we notice in its absence, for example, in the dubious personal dealings of some of the leaders of our financial corporations and business organisations, but rarely notice or appreciate when it is fully practised. So, here, to make the concept clearer, is a management training anecdote that brings home the full power of "integrity".
"The New Emperor"
An ageing emperor in the East decided on a novel way to choose his successor. He called the city's youths to his palace. Handing out some special seeds, he told them, "Go and plant these seeds. In a year's time, I will judge your plants and choose the new emperor."
One boy named Ling took his pot home and planted the seed. Every day he watered it but nothing grew. Even though his friends at school were talking about their growing plants, Ling only had an empty pot.
When the day came to return to the palace, Ling went with a frightened heart. The emperor appeared. All the other youths had magnificent plants. When the emperor saw Ling's plant, he summoned him to the front and announced to the crowd, "Behold your new emperor! He has courage and integrity for all the seeds I gave you were boiled and useless. He was the only one not to cheat. He will be a wise ruler over you all."
Lessons from "The New Emperor"
• Integrity is being seamlessly whole.
• Integrity is being true to who you are.
• Integrity is taking everything – and everyone – as a whole, not dividing things as “yours” and “mine”, home and work, my idea and your idea, what I want and what you want.
• Integrity is the avoidance of deception and expediency.
• Integrity is being the same person to everyone.
• Integrity is doing what you say you’re going to do; keeping your promises; being a person of your word.
• Integrity is not talking about diversity in the company’s press and having barriers to entry for certain people; not saying you believe in your people as your greatest asset and refusing some people opportunities for advancement.
For more inspirational management anecdotes, visit our Stories that Coach collection.