As a manager, you are the walking, talking code of conduct for your organization ... (November 18, 2005)

“As a manager, you are the walking, talking code of conduct for your organisation ...” – Muel Kaptein, The 6 Principles of Managing with Integrity

An employee’s honesty and integrity are determined primarily by the behaviour of their managers, according to a new book by Muel Kaptein, ‘The 6 Principles of Managing with Integrity: A practical guide for leaders”,’ published this week by Spiro Press, London. “Managers set the tone and create the culture and structure of an organisation,” he says. “They encourage employees to act with or without integrity. Integrity is a core competence of managers.”

Written in the wake of major corporate collapses WorldCom and Enron due to fraud, ‘The 6 Principles of Managing with Integrity’ is a timely broach of a subject now recognised as a major determinant of the long-term success of a company: the honesty or lack thereof in an organisation. While companies attempt to manage integrity in their organisations by introducing new processes, they would be better off, argues Kaptein, focusing on the personal integrity of their managers: this, he says, is the key determinant of the integrity within any organisation.

Kaptein builds a convincing case. Citing examples and insights from his extensive experience as a KPMG ethics and integrity consultant, Kaptein shows how integrity in management has a ripple effect across lower levels of an organisation.

Managers who set bad examples, he says, create a working space where dishonesty, fraud and corruption are more likely to manifest. Using KPMG’s database of research conducted on the working population of different countries, he points to correlations between staff conduct and direct manager’s behaviour. In more than 20% of the following cases, undesirable conduct occurred as a result of bad examples set by managers. These involved behaviours such as neglect of duty (27%), misuse of means (25%), manipulation of personal accounts (23%), and leaking of confidential information (21). A few other interesting examples include preferential treatment of friends and family (16%) and sexual intimidation (11%).

Yet what is integrity in real terms, and how can a manager know if they are practicing it? Kaptein identifies six principles for practicing integrity. To have integrity, a manager must be: authentic, reliable, constructive, and have a gentle, protective and firm hand. Using these principles, Kaptein goes on to provide a practical toolbox rooted in examples, by which managers can “formulate, clarify, review and communicate their integrity”.

This book provides a compelling case for managers to employ a higher degree of integrity in their daily operations. By pointing out the widespread benefits for an organisation and indeed, its inherent future profitability and sustainability, Kaptein gives compelling incentive for today’s managers to begin leading their organisations ‘by example’.