Vail Valley Voices: Are you walking your talk? |

Vail Valley Voices: Are you walking your talk?

John Horan-Kates
Vail, CO Colorado

At the Vail Leadership Institute, we define integrity as doing what you say you’ll do. It’s about putting your core beliefs into action – walking your talk.

Integrity has been described by former Congressman J.C. Watts as “what we do and how we behave when no one is watching.” In these circumstances, the real you comes out. On the other hand, how much credence do you give to doing things for the appearance they create?

All of our wisdom traditions advocate an integration of what is on the inside and what is on the outside. These scriptures urge us to strive for consistency between our words and our ways, between our attitudes and our actions. Leaders who follow a spiritually influenced standard like this can often recognize when they are living a divided life.

Here’s part of my story on integrity. In my 40s, I ran into a brick wall and came face to face with what it meant to keep agreements. It involved a contractual question, but the other guy insisted on doing it his way. He was my boss, so I suggested that we renegotiate. He said, “You don’t understand – we’re doing it my way.” That’s when I decided I wasn’t interested in doing business that way. I could have fought it, but I realized he was not my kind of guy. From my perspective, a deal is a deal, and you don’t just arbitrarily change it. Standing by what you’ve agreed to is a rock-solid principle to me. Over the years, I’ve come to see that this was simply a chapter in God’s plan for me. By hitting that wall, I was given the opportunity to redirect the focus of my work and live in integrity with my values.

Integrity is one of the absolute key ingredients of character. It’s much easier to act with integrity when the spotlight is on, but being trustworthy and honest because it is just the right thing to do is a sign of steadfastness. You are a person of integrity when you match your internal values with your external behavior, and when the pressure is on, you don’t discard your principles even if it’s costly.

How do “ethics” and “morality” relate to integrity? Sid Buzzell refers to ethics as a defined standard of right and wrong while morality is a lived standard – what you actually do. To the extent that a person’s ethic and morality are integrated, that person has integrity. The opposite of integrity is hypocrisy.

So, to what extent are you walking your talk?

This article has been written in connection with Exploring Potential, a character-development program being offered in Eagle County high schools. The author is the president of the Vail Leadership Institute in Edwards and can be reached at 970-926-7800 or

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