In Ayn Rand’s novel, The Fountainhead, published in 1943 and a modern classic, her character Kent Lansing, a real estate developer, speaks to his architect about integrity. His definition of integrity is one of the finest in the language:
“And what, incidentally, do you think integrity is? The ability not to pick a watch from your neighbor’s pocket? No, it’s not as easy as that…Integrity is the ability to stand by an idea. That presumes the ability to speak.”
I would amend Lansing’s definition by adding a single word. Hence, “Integrity is the ability to stand by the right idea.”
Ray Kroc of McDonald’s Corporation, in rock-solid fashion, demonstrated what standing by the right ideas means in business life, and elsewhere. He was largely responsible for building it into the world’s leading fast food company.
In 1954 Kroc was 52, married, living in Chicago with his third wife, Joan, and traveling the country as a milkshake equipment salesman. His business afforded an inside look at the operations of fast food restaurants and short order diners, and Kroc was always the astute observer. He also confessed to having consumed a great deal of fast food. As the years passed, he formulated an unshakable belief that the three essentials of a successful dining experience were Quality, Service, and Cleanliness. He labeled his credo the QSC
As chief executive of McDonalds, QSC became Ray Kroc’s guiding standard. Throughout the organization he preached and practiced it wherever he went. No one could cite an instance of his veering from it, compromising it, or failing to enforce it. (He was often seen cleaning the bathrooms when visiting a store.) McDonald employees trusted their chief explicitly because he lived what he believed, and stood by what he said, so others would know too. The big yellow arches sprouting all over the nation were proof Kroc’s ideas were sacrosanct.
Kroc’s performance with integrity painted a timely and timeless message. Integrity enforces purpose. It generates commitment. It strengthens standards at all levels, encourages adherence to values, and magnifies the firm–the brand–products and services. In the immortal words of Bill Rosenberg, founder of Dunkin’ Doughnuts,”With integrity you deliver as promised, when promised, in the manner promised.”