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In a journal article entitled “Meaning of Integrity from the Upper Echelon’s Perspective,” Manjit Monga, from the University of South Australia, attempted to clarify the meaning of integrity in the context of corporate governance. Monga pointed out (2016) that there is a significant level of agreement when it comes to the importance of the said subject matter. However, there is also great dissonance when it comes to the definition of integrity (Monga, 2016). Using information taken from the management literature, she noted that the best attempt to demystify the term resulted only in the creation of the expanded or broad definitions that typically include morality and ethics. However, she also pointed out that this term is morally and ethically neutral (Monga, 2016). Scholars came up with the idea that integrity is synonymous to wholeness. Others expanded the concept to include character, consistency in the context of the person’s actions and words, and courage in the midst of adversity and trials. Nevertheless, the author was not satisfied by the broad definition of the term. Monga sought to provide a narrow definition by determining how corporate leaders view integrity. To formulate a practical definition of integrity, the author sought to determine how senior executives conceptualized, appreciate, and utilize integrity when it comes to decision-making and creating a corporate culture that abhors wrongdoing and promotes excellence in the workplace.
Monga reached her conclusion and generalization on how senior executives perceive and utilize integrity using an exploratory study approach. This particular approach was constructed using the assumption that human beings act and generate life experiences based on how they interpret the meaning of information. Another critical component of the research methodology was to choose the banking industry as the backdrop of the study. This decision was made on the basis of the banking industry’s long history as well as the participation of certain bank executives in some of the most embarrassing bank scandals in recent years. Five senior executives agreed to participate in the study. The core objective of the data-gathering process was to discover themes and patterns based on the answers given to specific questions relating to how they perceived and applied concepts associated with integrity.
At the end of the interview process, the author specified five major ideas linked to the concept of integrity and these are: the perceived value of integrity; a broad definition of integrity; a guiding principle on how to act out integrity; how to maintain a sustainable culture that celebrates the importance of integrity; and how to utilize integrity in a practical way. It was pointed out that the respondents believed in the importance of integrity. The author defined integrity as “doing the right thing” (Monga, 2016). The data collected during the interviews pointed out that the leaders were guided by the principle of “doing the right thing by our customers” or doing everything in the best interest of the customers (Monga, 2016). Finally, the researcher made the conclusion that integrity stems from a commitment to a set of ethical and moral principles. The author also mentioned that due to the research design inherent weaknesses are to be expected. Nevertheless, she did not elaborate on the nature of the limitations. However, the author revealed that it is important to conduct further research on the basis of the discovery that integrity is a complex and multi-faceted belief system and that it is imperative for all the members of the organization to make a commitment to certain ethical and moral standards.
The author’s motivation to initiate a study on how leaders understand and utilize principles related to integrity was rooted in the realization that business leaders needed the integrity to avoid corporate scandals and other types of wrongdoing. The researcher also clarified that although there is an agreement on the value of integrity in connection to the long-term success of a business enterprise, there is no agreement when it comes to a specific definition. The author made the argument that as a consequence of having a broad definition of integrity, it is not clear how to leverage the perceived value of the represented conceptual framework. Thus, it was of critical importance to develop a narrower and more practical definition of integrity. However, the author failed to accomplish these objectives. The failure to achieve a goal became clear at the end of the study when the author submitted a broad definition of integrity and went on to validate the problematic issues that she wanted to resolve. The inability to generate a practical definition of integrity was rooted in the failure to appreciate the nature of the subject matter she wanted to investigate and the assumption that was used to build the framework for the research design.
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Reasons of Failure to Generate a New Definition
From the beginning, it was clear that the author was ready to set a lofty goal. She made the argument that there is no clear definition of integrity, and by implication, this means that there is no practical definition of integrity. This line of reasoning leads to the suggestion that since there is no practical and unified definition of integrity, it is difficult to appreciate its perceived value. One can argue that the failure to generate a new definition was rooted in the author’s assumption that she could find a solution by going straight to the source. In fact, this is also a fundamental error, because she made the assumption that the senior executives she interviewed were certified experts when it comes to the subject matter of integrity.
There were at least two major reasons for the author’s failure to generate a practical definition of integrity. The primary reason for her failure underlay in the assumption that by simply interviewing senior leaders she would be able to get all the critical information needed in order to formulate a new framework of integrity. It is interesting to note that these corporate leaders were chosen not because they were familiar with the theoretical concepts related to integrity, but because they satisfied certain criteria based on work experience in the banking industry, and the fact that they served as senior executives in an Australian bank. The secondary reason for the author’s failure was rooted in her inability to appreciate the inherent complexity of the concept of integrity. This idea is as complicated and multi-faceted just like the conceptual frameworks related to leadership and excellence. In other words, there is also no agreement when it comes to developing a simplified and unified definition of what it means to be a good leader or to achieve excellence in the workplace. Similarly to the abstract terms like happiness and peace, it is impossible to find a universally accepted system of defining these concepts.
Echoing the Ideas from the Management Literature
The failure to develop a new definition of integrity compelled the author to echo the information she cited in the introduction portion of the article. She was supposed to provide the new information in response to the problematic aspects of some of the popular views of integrity, such as the lack of unity, being a multi-faceted concept, and its dependence on morality and ethics as key components. However, at the end of the discussion, the author reiterated and validated the issues that she sought to change or rectify. For example, she wanted to go beyond the broad definition of integrity, but she ended up confirming this notion by stating that integrity is doing the right thing. The researcher tried to narrow down the definition by saying that moral reflectiveness is at the heart of integrity (Monga, 2016). However, this attempt at clarification did not provide anything definite.
The author wanted to demonstrate that it is possible to articulate integrity beyond the generalizations of morality and ethics. However, she was left no choice but to conclude that integrity in the workplace is only possible if there is a strong commitment to ethical and moral principles. She went even further by stating that she supports the “moral meaning of integrity” that one can find in the management literature (Monga, 2016). In other words, she did not discover anything new and simply reiterated the core contents of the review of management sources.
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The author failed in her attempt to develop a definition of the key term that would enable business leaders to have a practical understanding of the concept and how to act with integrity. Her failure was rooted in a misguided appreciation of the complexity of the topic and the assumption she utilized to develop the research design. She made the wrong hypothesis that an abstract concept like integrity can be broken down into simpler components. She also made the erroneous assumption that it would be possible to develop a practical definition by gaining insights from the interview material. Based on her research design and hypotheses, the best thing she could hope to achieve was to present a seasoned businessmen’s point of view of integrity and acknowledge the fact that, similarly to the abstract concepts like good leadership and excellence in the workplace, integrity is a multi-faceted term.