Integrity in Public Life

Last evening I had the privilege of listening to Derek Hathaway speak on the topic of Integrity in Public Life. Derek was at Messiah College as part of the Executive in Residence program and concluded the evening with an impactful presentation.

Many people know Derek as the former CEO of Harsco Corporation. Under his leadership, the market capitalization of Harsco grew from $250 million in 1994 to over $5 billion upon his retirement in 2008. At his retirement the company had over 22,000 employees and had locations in over 50 countries.
 
When you speak to anyone about Derek, they comment about his amazing character and giving attitude. In fact, this native of the United Kingdom was honored by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II with the Order of the British Empire. This honor of chivalry is given to people of great character and service. After getting to know Derek, you understand why he was given such an honor.
 
During the presentation Derek made several thought provoking points. First key point was “who is the public in public life?” He went on to explain how each of us is a person in public life and therefore we all should be people of integrity. It is true that leaders and those in the public eye (i.e. CEO’s, Politicians…) receive more scrutiny, but we all are visible to the public. Each of us has some one watching and it is important we live our public life and our private life with integrity.
 
Derek also focused on the question, “Who are you?”  Often we define ourselves by our title or day job (for instance, I am Scott Heintzelman, Partner at McKonly & Asbury). But that is not who we are but rather what we do. Who you are is all about your character and beliefs – what you see in the mirror. He stressed the importance for each of us to reclaim the ethical high ground in our lives.
 
He also shared this story of Integrity – Integrity is a goal to strive for that requires constant discipline and usage. The word comes from an ancient Roman Army tradition. During inspections, each soldier would strike his armor breastplate covering his heart with his right fist. While hitting his armor the soldier would shout "integritas," a Latin word meaning wholeness, completeness, and entirety. Upon hearing this declaration and the ring that well kept armor gave off, the inspector moved to the next man.
 
During this time, the Imperial Bodyguard was rising to power. These men came from the most "politically correct" soldiers of the Legions. They did not have to shout "integritas," instead they shouted "Hail Caesar," meaning they served a single man.
 
As time passed, the Imperial Bodyguard lost both their morals and integrity and the soldiers of the Roman Army started to emulate them. They became lazy and stopped wearing their heavy armor, causing them to not only lose their integrity, but to be defeated by their enemies. In only a few years, they lost territories they had held for centuries.
 
Derek concluded his presentation with this challenge: “Wear your armor of integrity. Take full measure of its weight and find comfort in its protection. Do not become lax. Always, remember that no one can take your integrity from you. Only you can give it away!”

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by Scott Heintzelman - Scott is a CPA, CMA and CFE living in Pennsylvania. Scott is a partner serving on the executive team at McKonly & Asbury LLP, a regional accounting firm with multiple offices in the Mid-Atlantic. The firm has been an IPA ALL-STAR as well as winning Best Places to Work in Pennsylvania for numerous years.

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