How Important Are Honesty and Integrity in Business?

By Alan Olsen

Which attributes matter most in the business world? That is a difficult question to answer because there are so many important attributes that people, especially business leaders, need to have. However, one of the most important factors in any relationship, in business or life, is honesty, which breeds trust. For example, it is very difficult to have a successful business if your customers don’t trust you or don’t think you’re honest. You might find some success by being dishonest, but in the long run if people don’t trust you, they typically won’t stand by you.


Honesty Is All-Important

I recently met with Wally Hawley, one of the co-founders of InterWest Partners (1979), one of the larger venture capital partnerships in the United States. I took the opportunity to discuss with Wally a few important attributes in business, I asked him how important he thought honesty is in business when dealing with others? “Well if you don’t have it basically I don’t think you have anything,” he said. “It’s a matter of trust. If you’re working with someone and as long as you have the trust and they have the trust in you it’s all important.” Wally also explained that if you begin to lose that trust factor it could be devastating to your relationships and your business. “Over my career I obviously have gotten involved in situations where I’ve seen leaders that start to do things that I’m not very happy with and at that point I’m out of there.” Wally said “there’s no reason to tolerate anything other than someone who you feel you can trust what they say, their word, what they’re going to do. So it’s all-important now.”


A Man (or Woman) of Integrity

Wally and I also discussed integrity and role that it plays in business. I asked Wally what comes to his mind when he hears the word integrity? “Well integrity and honesty are sort of the same thing, but if a person is described as a man of integrity it means you can trust what he says and what he does.” Wally went into more detail and explained that when you find someone that people describe as “a man of integrity” that carries a lot of weight. That’s because it means other people know they can use anything he says in a good way. Wally explained how integrity is also about helping others. He said people with integrity are “really trying to help you and part of that integrity is caring about others.”


People Follow Leaders With honesty & Integrity

If you want to be a good leader in business as well as in life then you have to be able to be trusted. That means you must be honest and have integrity. Without those attributes it will be difficult for others to respect you. If people can’t trust you then it’s very unlikely they are going to follow you. On the other hand, if you are honest and have integrity people will naturally want to follow you because they know they can trust you.

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