Balancing Act: Integrity and Entrepreneurship

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Need integrity and entrepreneurship be mutually exclusive?

Whether integrity and entrepreneurship can co-exist is the subject of many a debate in TV studios, classrooms, and boardrooms. Before we explore the correlation between the two, it is essential to define the meaning and understand the scope of the two terms.

Integrity: A Definition

Integrity can be reliably defined as one’s inner voice that warns one, if one strays from the straight and narrow. It can be compared to the early symptoms a human body exhibits to warn one of the impending outbreak of a disease or a medical condition. One always has the option of heeding the good advice coming from within one and taking corrective measures.

Anthropology Comes to the Rescue

Human beings started to develop a sense of right and wrong as they evolved. Every human displays a marked reluctance, albeit in varying degrees, to commit a wrong. This probably explains why one looks over one’s shoulder when one is about to do something illegal. This sense of guilt is very strong in children and you will find them freely confessing to their ‘crimes’ at the first available opportunity. At other times, they betray themselves under your scrutiny and admit to wrongdoing because their sense of integrity is still strong. However, as one grows older this sense of integrity either gets reinforced further or wilts completely under the pressure exerted by a person’s circumstances, association or a failure to take corrective action by parents and teachers at the right time. Most humans find a middle path that suits one’s needs and protects one’s interests.

Entrepreneurship is a Full-time Job

Entrepreneurship is perceiving an opportunity others cannot see or being the first person to conceive the idea, developing an execution plan, getting the right people on board, convincing people about the viability of your venture and getting them to invest capital, shouldering the responsibility of getting the idea off the ground, performing consistently, owning up failures, sharing success and finally paving the way for future growth.

The Moral Dilemma

The entrepreneurial journey is a true test of one’s character. The moral dilemma one often faces is having to make a choice between preserving one’s integrity at all times and the need to be practical and take decisions based on a need for greater common good. It would help entrepreneurs to address the following aspects to help them to get their priorities right.

  • Can just brilliant ideas ensure entrepreneurial success?
  • Is being highly ambitious and single-minded in life enough to give shape to your vision?
  • What criteria will you be looking for building your team?
  • What should be your marketing strategy to earn and retain customers?
  • How does corporate world regard your business practices?
  • How do you want society to regard you as a person?
  • What does entrepreneurship really mean to you?
  • How do you define success and what it means to you?

The Answers Lie Within

It is clear that an ideal entrepreneurial success story is one that has a path-breaking idea as the prologue, integrity as its central theme, great people as its cast, a constant course-correction by the director and a resolve to stay true to the ideal script. Well, we will let Oprah Winfrey, the venerable American icon, to express her opinion, if not the last word, on the subject.

Real integrity is doing the right thing, knowing that nobody’s going to know whether you did it or not.”

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