Vail Valley Voices: Do you live your ethics? |

Vail Valley Voices: Do you live your ethics?

John Horan-Kates
Vail, CO Colorado

At the Vail Leadership Institute, we define integrity as walking your talk – doing what you say you’ll do. It’s about putting your core beliefs into action. And integrity also concerns the state of being truthful, genuine and free of deception or duplicity.

All of our wisdom traditions advocate an integration of what is on the inside and what is on the outside. These scripture 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.

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 it creates? Some refer to this as “public-dependent” behavior. Rather than being concerned about building your reputation, maybe if you simply responded to a higher calling, that desired reputation might be the result.

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. John Maxwell, in his book Ethics 101, defines integrity as “making your beliefs and actions line up.”

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.

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Some of the best practices for being integrated include being authentic, being trustworthy and completely honest, creating a culture of trust and contributing to the greater good. But we’re all human, and thus fallible and imperfect by nature. When you stumble, make it right. Ask for forgiveness, take your lumps, but learn and grow.

So, are you living an integrated life?

This column 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 926-7800 or

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