In­tegrity re­quires eval­u­a­tion

Mir­ror turns back to self

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - RELIGION - JUDI NEAL

Years ago, I worked for an Army am­mu­ni­tion plant. It was hard to take that job be­cause I’ve al­ways been anti-war and be­cause I’m a firm be­liever in “Thou shalt not kill.” But I did, be­cause I also had strong val­ues re­gard­ing em­ployee em­pow­er­ment, team build­ing and lead­er­ship devel­op­ment. This par­tic­u­lar plant was the com­pany’s crown jewel for im­ple­ment­ing lead­ing-edge prac­tices. It was my job to help this plant move to the next level of self-manag­ing work teams.

I’ve writ­ten more about this story in my book Edge­walk­ers, but briefly, there was a real turn­ing point in my spir­i­tual jour­ney when I dis­cov­ered ev­i­dence that the plant was know­ingly mak­ing faulty am­mu­ni­tion and al­ter­ing bal­lis­tics data so the am­mu­ni­tion could be sold to the mil­i­tary. I be­came a whistle­blower and re­ported the wrong­do­ing to a higher level within the com­pany. My anonymity was not pro­tected, my life was threat­ened, and I had to dis­ap­pear for awhile un­til the in­ves­ti­ga­tion was com­plete.

This ex­pe­ri­ence com­pletely al­tered my ca­reer, and I lost all sense of pro­fes­sional mean­ing and pur­pose, shaken as I was by the lack of in­tegrity I saw in the lead­er­ship. I knew I had to leave cor­po­rate Amer­ica, and I had no idea what God had in mind for me. In my con­fu­sion and fear, I turned to spir­i­tual writ­ings. In a book called Liv­ing in the Light by Shakti Gawain, I came across two con­cepts: (1) We draw into our lives the things we need to learn from, and (2) What is out­side of us is a mir­ror of what is in­side.

I had be­come pretty self-right­eous. I was part of the good-guy team try­ing to stop the bad-guy team from caus­ing harm. But if ev­ery­thing I saw out­side of my­self reeked of lack of in­tegrity — lies,

greed, cover-up, fin­ger-point­ing and be­trayal — so I had to ask my­self “How is this ex­ter­nal lack of in­tegrity a mir­ror for what is in­side of me? Where do I lack in­tegrity, and what is the les­son I need to learn from this?”

Through self-re­flec­tion and prayer, I came to see that I lacked in­tegrity be­cause I sel­dom spoke my truth. I al­most al­ways told top lead­er­ship what they wanted to hear and was afraid to speak my mis­giv­ings. I was the only woman man­ager in a good ol’ boy net­work, and I was try­ing to fit in in­stead of hav­ing the

courage to chal­lenge au­thor­ity. I was do­ing what I was told in­stead of bring­ing all my ideas and skills to sup­port pos­i­tive change.

The whistle­blow­ing ex­pe­ri­ence was so vis­ceral that af­ter­wards it in­spired me to go back into academia so that I could un­der­stand how we might cre­ate lead­ers and or­ga­ni­za­tions that take the high road in­stead of that low road. I be­gan in­ter­view­ing lead­ers with a strong spir­i­tual life rooted in faith in God or in some­thing higher than them­selves. These lead­ers were from a va­ri­ety of faith back­grounds. They had sev­eral qual­i­ties in com­mon, and one of the top five qual­i­ties was a “clear sense of val­ues and a strong com­mit­ment to live in align­ment with those val­ues.” This is

my def­i­ni­tion of in­tegrity. In­tegrity can range from sim­ple ac­tions such as keep­ing your word to coura­geous ac­tions such as re­call­ing a prod­uct that may be a po­ten­tial dan­ger to cus­tomers or the en­vi­ron­ment.

As a lib­eral, I found my­self feel­ing self-right­eous again this past week as I read the news about the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion and the con­nec­tion to Rus­sian med­dling in the elec­tion. I don’t like those feel­ings of self-right­eous­ness and judg­ment. They don’t fit in my value sys­tem, yet it is all too easy to go there.

So once again I need to hold up a mir­ror and look at my own val­ues and ex­am­ine where I may not be liv­ing fully in align­ment with them. I need to look at

where I may not be be­ing fully au­then­tic be­cause of my fear of what some­one else might think.

Yes, I long for a world where we can trust our lead­ers, trust our or­ga­ni­za­tions and trust each other. I will do what­ever I can in my small way to move the world in this di­rec­tion through my re­search, writ­ing, teach­ing, speak­ing and song­writ­ing. I don’t know if any of what I do will make a dif­fer­ence, but I do know that I need to keep re­mind­ing my­self to look in the mir­ror when I don’t like what I see out there in the world.

Judi Neal is the chair­man and chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer of Edge­walk­ers In­ter­na­tional, a con­sult­ing firm fo­cus­ing on work­place spir­i­tu­al­ity. She can be reached at judi@edge­walk­

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