Why integrity matters

In 2010 BP suffered one of the world’s largest environmental disasters when the Deepwater Horizon rig in the Gulf of Mexico exploded killing 11 workers and releasing 3.19 million barrels of crude oil into the ocean.  In one single event they destroyed the ground they had gained since launching their USD $200M Beyond Petroleum brand campaign in 2000 with it’s green, clean, environmentally conscious image.

The total pre-tax charge for the spill was USD $53.8 billion and in 2013 43% of Americans still had an unfavourable view of BP.  Their brand has taken a hammering from which they may never recover.  Their integrity is in question because their actions have been judged to be at odds with the brand values they espoused.

Photo: kris krüg

As leaders, we spend considerable time and effort building our personal brand, much like a company builds it’s brand.  Our stakeholders have expectations and perceptions of us, much like they have of businesses they deal with.  And just like a business brand, integrity is the critical piece in our personal brand.

It would be easy to succumb to the anecdotal evidence from the current ‘post-truth’ era that honesty and integrity no longer matter.  However, the data about what people are looking for in leaders shows a different picture.  Gallup interviewed more than 10,000 followers around the world to ask exactly why they followed the most important leader in their life.   At the top of the list was ‘trust,’ also described as honesty, integrity and respect.

Of course, most of us believe that we are honest and that we always act with integrity.  However, we will be judged by our actions rather than our intentions.   Our actions need to be consistent with our personal brand as game-changing leaders.  Otherwise, like BP, our brand will be judged as rhetoric and irreparably damaged.   

Good brands respond to their customers perceptions.  You could learn some valuable insights from asking your stakeholders about the integrity of your personal brand.

  • Do I do what I promise?
  • Are my actions consistent with what I say I stand for?

Best regards, Brian