We blog about honesty in small business a lot.  When you boil everything away, a small business is all about the team bringing a product or service to market.  If integrity is an issue for any reason, the business will not survive.  That’s not speculation.  I’ve been involved in a number of startups and assisted countless others.   When the company’s integrity — with employees, with vendors, with customers, with anyone — was gone, word spread like wildfire and the company was either soon gone or sold for a fraction of its previous worth.

Individuals have the same issues.   Individual integrity is what transfers to the organization.

Baseball writer and guru Peter Gammons covered this year’s Hall of Fame vote at MLB.com.  Gammons joined all MLB.com writers eligible to vote in releasing ballot details.

McGwire hit more home runs than all but 7 other men in baseball history. He is currently tied with A-Rod, the infamous Alex Rodridguez, with 583 career home runs. Look at the home run chart on Baseball-Reference.com, and you’ll see McGwire’s name ahead of names like Ted Williams and Mickey Mantle and very, very close to names like Babe Ruth.

But when Congress was investigating performance-enhancing drugs, Mark McGwire gave this testimony.

His non-answer might have been legally smart, but it was professional suicide.  For four straight years, the Baseball Writers of America have denied McGwire, once considered a shoo-in during his first year of eligibility a place in baseball’s Hall of Fame.  Gammons voted for him and wrote an impassioned defense of the case.  But only one other of Gammons’ 12 colleagues at MLB.com joined him in voting for Mark McGwire.  Indeed, Mark McGwire has yet to receive 30% of the votes necessary for Hall of Fame enshrinement.   And with a total of 5 of the top 15 home run hitters of all time linked at least indirectly to performance-enhancing drug use, the trend is likely to continue.

Former Baltimore Mayor Sheila Dixon is another example of integrity.  This middle-aged women scrapped and fought her way to run one of America’s largest cities.   Late last year she was indicted on twelve criminal charges, including perjury, theft and misappropriation of funds.

  • The charge that stuck and eventually resulted in a conviction: misappropriation.
  • The amount: about five hundred dollars in gift cards.
  • The intended recipients: poor people via charitable organizations.

Dixon has resigned.  Her last day as Mayor of Baltimore is next month.    Baltimore’s citizens are not pleased. She is a pariah in her hometown, a place she has lived for over 50 years, where she taught school, where she served on the City Council, where she was the mayor.

These are celebrity examples, but they underscore a critical point.  The minute you start losing your integrity is when your entire life’s work can be diminished.    Honesty is the only successful long run policy.   Anything less than that invites disaster.