[Note: This is the 4th in  a 12-week series of posts that will discuss “choices” from the book Monday Morning Choices by David Cottrell.]

What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us. – Ralph Waldo Emerson

“What type of words would you use to describe a leader?” This is the question I asked a group of 7 and 8 year olds in the religious education class I co-teach at my church. We were discussing Harriet Tubman specifically, but leadership in general. Many in the class were looking randomly around the room or fiddling with a shoelace or jacket zipper as 2nd and 3rd graders might. But one little girl shyly raised her hand and answered, “Trust.”

Integrity and trust are key ingredients in establishing who you are as a leader, team member, wife, husband, brother, sister and friend. We each have a core value system. Our own ability to live by the value system and make choices – day in and day out, large and small – that align with our values define our integrity and others capacity to trust us.

At the end of the day you need to be able to look at yourself in the mirror and feel good about the decisions and choices you made that day. That you did not compromise your values.

For many coaching sessions, the coach will have the client create a list of her core values. I worked on this list and, in the realm of work, one of my core values is to “do what I say I am going to do – every time.”   Meeting that commitment establishes trust with the person to whom I made that commitment and defines my integrity.

What if I didn’t do what I said I was going to do? This did happen recently at work. It was an honest mistake on my part, but to the person to whom I made the commitment it created a small crack in their trust.  Their response was understandable and mine as well.  Even as a result of a mistake, it is very hard for me to act in a manner that goes against my core values.

I’m sure you have all experienced this. When we have really hard decisions to make. The ones that are most uncomfortable. Many times these are the ones that are challenging our core values – challenging our integrity.