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18 June 2007

Leadership qualities: Integrity

Each week we look at a quality necessary for success in public life. This week: integrity.

By Staff Blogger

Each week we look at one of four qualities necessary to succeed in this category, all of which come from a speech then President-elect John F Kennedy gave to the Massachusetts legislature on January 9, 1961. “Were we truly men of integrity,” Kennedy said posterity would ask about us, “men who never ran out on either the principles in which we believed or the men who believed in us – men whom neither financial gain nor political ambition could ever divert from the fulfilment of our sacred trust?”

“Is it expedient?” were the words on the posters of the brief-lived Common Wealth Party, led by Sir Richard Acland in the 1930s and 40s. No, came the answer: for the words were printed crossed-out and with the question “Is it right?” following immediately afterwards. Strangely enough, on the day Tony Blair announced his resignation Peter Mandelson wrote an article in which he claimed that his old friend and boss lived by the same motto. However the questions are interpreted, though, we can agree that they are the right ones. Anyone who achieves high position in public life but is considered to have wavered on principle is rightly considered to be a bad example. Integrity is also its own reward in professions that are not always so handsomely remunerated. Indeed, for many, it can be the only reward. But then, is it not the highest compliment to call someone a person of principle?

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