In 1980, Rosa Ruiz completed the 1980 Boston Marathon in 2:31:56–at the time, the fastest finish ever for a female. There was just one problem. She didn’t run the whole thing.
After the race, men’s champion Bill Rogers chatted with his female counterpart on the winner’s stand. He questioned Ruiz about her intervals and time splits along the race course. (Apparently, this is common jargon for long-distance runners which would explain why I have no idea what this means.) Ruiz couldn’t answer him.
Others noted that she was not breathing hard, sweating, or fatigued immediately following the race despite the fact that she had shaved off 25 minutes off her best time ever, recorded just six months earlier at the New York Marathon.
No other runners could remember seeing her during the race. Two Harvard students did recall seeing her on the course; however, it was when she burst out of a crowd of spectators about a half a mile from the finish line and bolted through the tape.
One by one, competitors and spectators came forth as race officials pieced together the actual chain of events leading up to Ruiz’s false victory. 1980 ended up not being a good year for Rosa Ruiz.
For Roy Moore, 1980 marked the beginning of his own race–in government and politics. West Point graduate, lawyer, and assistant district attorney, Moore appeared fit not only to run this race, but to win it.
A recent article published by the Washington Post, however, alleges that senate candidate Roy Moore, much like Rosa Ruiz, was up to no good in 1980. Multiple women have come forth alleging inappropriate sexual contact by the former Chief Justice of Alabama during that time frame. Particularly troubling is the fact that all the women were teenagers while Roy Moore was in his early thirties.
So what’s the connection between Roy Moore and Rosa Ruiz? Simple. A lack of integrity.
We get our word INTEGRITY from the root word integer which means whole, or intact. An integer in mathematics is a whole number, or one without fractions.
Rosa Ruiz did not run the whole race, only a fraction of it.
Roy Moore has not presented the whole truth, only a fraction of it. (If the allegations are correct.)
A little yeast leavens the whole dough is an old Hebrew saying meaning this: a small impurity will eventually affect the whole entity. Given time, yeast penetrates throughout dough changing the final taste, smell, touch, and feel of bread. It is a great metaphor for how integrity is compromised when our behaviors are incongruent with what we profess.
I consult, coach, and speak to leaders to help them develop skills with the goal to enhance their ability to lead others. But integrity is not like strategic planning or goal setting or emotional intelligence.
Integrity cannot be taught . . . at least to adults.
By the time we enter the workforce, we either have it or we don’t. Demonstrating integrity 98% of the time means you don’t have it. For those who possess integrity, the end doesn’t justify the means. It IS the means.
During the investigation following the Boston Marathon, race officials discovered that Ruiz rode the subway to the finish of the New York Marathon six months earlier! Two years after the Boston Marathon, Rosa Ruiz was arrested for embezzling $60,000 from her employer. Notice a trend?
Similarly, the Washington Post article paints a pattern of unethical behavior for Roy Moore. As more women continue to come forward, the initial complaint was apparently not an isolated incident.
Ruiz and Moore can spin their stories to coincide with their ambitions, but the glaring space between what they say happened and what actually happened exists because integrity is missing.
Without integrity there are gaps in stories, gaps in truth, and ultimately, gaps in character.
Here’s why I believe integrity is THE crucial trait for leaders.
Integrity is the headwaters–the source–of a leader’s influence. Downstream from integrity flows:
(1) Trustworthiness – employees listen to behaviors before they trust a leader.
(2) Transparency – ever notice how leaders with integrity are more open? They have nothing to hide, well, because they have nothing to hide.
(3) Unselfishness – Leaders with integrity sacrifice for the greater good. Not for a temporary medal. Not for the next rung on the political ladder. Think of how Ruiz’s fellow racers felt when they found out the truth. Think of how the women in the Washington Post felt as they watched Moore climb the political ranks.
(4) Inspiration – the deeper a leader’s character, the deeper the well of inspiration that followers draw from. For whom would you run through a brick wall? Share a foxhole? Go to the ends of the earth? I bet whomever comes to mind is a person of strong character.
Now, before anyone jumps to the wrong conclusion as to why I wrote this blog, let me clarify my intent.
Rosa Ruiz and Roy Moore are merely symptoms of a much larger disease, an epidemic if you will. We are facing a severe leadership crisis in America for one simple reason.
INTEGRITY has become doing what is right for me, rather than doing what is right for the greater good.
Without this moral compass, WE decide what is right and wrong and that, my friends, is a slippery slope. What is tried and true in one camp could be abhorrent and disgusting in another and yet BOTH camps feel justified in their passion and resolve.
Over time, battle lines are drawn. Divisiveness deepens. And worst of all, no one has the guts to stand firm for the greater good for fear of being ostracized. Trump isn’t the instigator here. Nor are the Republicans or Democrats.
We are all culpable.
And until we collectively decide what truth–what integrity–we are going to follow as a nation, divisiveness will continue. So will racism. So will partisan politics. Like the old saying goes, “If everybody is right, nobody is right.”
Call to Action
Leaders! Want to see what kind of integrity employees want in your organization? Download my free checklist here and get started today!