Integrity matters. A leader’s ability to lead is built upon a trust relationship. When there is a failure of integrity then the trust can be irrevocably broken. Integrity goes beyond simply being honest. Its definition means, “to be whole, integrated, and complete.” Dr. Henry Cloud, co-author of the bestseller Boundaries noted, “our character, the ability to meet the demands of reality, determines our integrity. A person with integrity has the ability to pull everything together, to make it all happen no matter how challenging the circumstances.” The late management guru Peter Drucker stated, “integrity means adhering to a code of ethics and doing the right thing by sticking to that code.” Living a life of integrity is a day by day process and there are no shortcuts. Sometimes there are short term costs for “adhering to your code,” but ultimately a leader’s character determines his or her legacy.
The Better Business Bureau is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year. The BBB seal has been the “sign of trust” for businesses for decades. The organization collects, investigates, researches, and shares information on business practices. As a watchdog for scams and unsavory business practices, the BBB has been an invaluable resource to consumers. The BBB of Mississippi recently hired a new CEO and president, John O’Hara. O’Hara is a seasoned business executive with a record of leading with character and integrity. A native of Long Island, N.Y., he made his way south to attend the University of Georgia where he earned a B.S.A. in agriculture. He served for over 19 years with Atlantix Global Systems, the largest used IT hardware reseller in North America where he worked his way up to being president of the company. In 2010, O’Hara moved to Mississippi and joined Keltman Pharmaceuticals Inc., a national pharmaceutical wholesaler company, where he served as vice president of operations.
O’Hara noted that his parents were the early influencers of his leadership style as they instilled in him a strong work ethic and value system. He also said that he learned a great deal from Eric Prockow, the CEO of Atlantix. O’Hara shared, “He gave me the confidence to continue to grow and develop and had the highest integrity of anyone in business I ever met. He taught me never to comprise my values.” When we see people living out their integrity and values, it is an encouragement and provides motivation to follow a similar path.
O’Hara’s first key principle of leadership is to “practice what you preach.” He emphasized, “If you’re telling people to work harder and longer, you need to as well.” He also believes that it is important to keep your integrity both in your professional and personal life. If you conduct yourself one way at work and one at home, people don’t know who you really are.” Leaders like O’Hara realize that when you are in leadership roles that people are watching. As a leader, we communicate more with our actions than our words. If we want an organization that operates with integrity, then we as leaders need to conduct ourselves with integrity. Drucker aptly noted, “Character is not something one can fool people about. The people with whom a person works, and especially subordinates, know in a few weeks whether he or she has integrity or not.” As leaders, we need to be mindful of this and make sure that we start by living lives of personal integrity.
The BBB of Mississippi is an important organization serving businesses and customers around the state. I am excited that John O’Hara has found his way to Mississippi and will be leading this important organization and continuing a tradition of leading with integrity and character.
>> Martin Willoughby, a business lawyer in Jackson, is a regular contributing columnist for the Mississippi Business Journal. Willoughby can be reached at martin.willoughby@ butlersnow.com.