Integrity…don’t leave home without it

by Jamie Flinchbaugh on 12-20-13

Warren Buffett3

“Somebody once said that in looking for people to hire, you look for three qualities: integrity, intelligence, and energy. And if you don’t have the first, the other two will kill you. You think about it; it’s true. If you hire somebody without [integrity], you really want them to be dumb and lazy.” – Warren Buffet

I came across this quote while reading my friend Jon Miller‘s new book, Creating a Kaizen Culture. I will certainly be posting a review of the book once I’m finished.

But I loved this quote an wanted to share it. My personal belief (and its just a personal belief, not an empirical one) is that integrity is paramount, it is first.

When I tried to write down my personal principles, which is harder than you think to be selective and descriptive, integrity was at the top of the list. Here was my description at the time, as it applied to me:

Integrity is first, it is paramount. Integrity is first to yourself, and then to others. Integrity is saying what you mean and just as importantly, acting with honest intent. Any positive trait that be levied towards someone is suspect unless backed by integrity. Integrity is beyond honesty and beyond talking straight. It requires insight and reflection. To be honest with yourself means reflection and corrective action on the gap between your intent, and your results. Intending to help someone when your actions achieve the opposite is a violation of integrity, and only a “good look in the mirror” will enable one to improve the ability to connect their actions and results with their intent.

Back was I was sharing some posts on Mark Graban’s blog, I was writing Leading Lean: A-Z. I never actually finished that project, but did make sure I covered “I” for Integrity.

To Mr. Buffet’s point, there are many ways to build a culture and to change someone’s behavior, including your own. But not having integrity – that one’s a little tougher.


  • Hi Jamie

    Thanks for the mention. I especially like your point about integrity being honest with oneself. That is the root of continuous improvement – the courage to see where we are failing and can do better, rather than hiding such inconvenient realities. A good topic for reflection over the holidays!

    Jon Miller December 20, 2013 at 7:45 pm
  • Jamie,
    I’d take it a step further. Bill Torbert uses the language of triple loop learning. It goes something like this:

    If results ain’t great, you can change your actions (single loop)
    Or you can reflect back on the strategy you had devised (double loop)
    Or you can reflect back on your original vision (aka intention) (triple loop)

    In my coaching conversations, I’m constantly inviting leaders to reflect on one or more of these loops. I guess you could call them the Three Whys. 😉

    Amiel Handelsman January 7, 2014 at 1:08 am