Category Archives: Integrity

How Solomon Would Choose A Candidate

SolomonIn Proverbs 6 verses 6 through 19, King Solomon wrote:

There are six things the Lord hates,
seven that are detestable to him:
17    haughty eyes,
a lying tongue,
hands that shed innocent blood,
18     a heart that devises wicked schemes,
feet that are quick to rush into evil,
19    a false witness who pours out lies
and a person who stirs up conflict in the community

No matter your political persuasion or party affiliation, King Solomon provides a benchmark against which a candidate can be judged.

Haughty eyes – This is Solomon’s way of describing someone who is arrogant, condescending, and full of self-pride. A wise leader is a humble leader: one who empathizes with those he or she leads, and someone who seeks out and listens to diverse opinions. In Proverbs 11 verse 2, Solomon wrote, “When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.”

A lying tongue – My father used to caution, “A man who lies to you, will steal from you.” There is no such thing as a “little lie.” A liar cannot be trusted, and does not respect those he or she lies to. Solomon also wrote, “A lying tongue, hates those it hurts.” Proverbs, 26 verse 28

Hands that shed innocent blood – It is a leader’s responsibility to care for and protect the helpless and innocent—to ensure that the use of force is justified and judicious. “It is not good to be partial to the wicked and so deprive the innocent of justice.” Proverbs 18 verse 5

A heart that devises wicked schemes – It is detestable for a leader to concoct dishonest plots in order to be elected or enriched. A wise leader cares more for those he leads, than he cares for himself or herself. Solomon also wrote, “A fool finds pleasure in wicked schemes, but a person of understanding delights in wisdom.” Proverbs 10 verse 23

Feet that are quick to rush into evil – An evil person is eager to get into all kinds of mischief—more concerned about his or her “wants” than the needs of those he or she leads. “The wicked crave evil; their neighbors get no mercy from them.” Proverbs 21 verse 10

A false witness who pours out lies – A candidate who spreads lies and rumors about his or her opponent cannot be trusted to govern fairly and wisely.   Solomon wrote, “A corrupt witness mocks at justice, and the mouth of the wicked gulps down evil.” Proverbs 19:28

A person who stirs up conflict in the community – A candidate who is willing to turn neighbor against neighbor, to divide rather than unify, is someone who is willing to forsake leadership for personal gain. Solomon got it right when he wrote, “who plots evil with deceit in his heart – he always stirs up conflict.” Proverbs 6:14

A leader who possesses attributes the antithesis of the preceding 7 things is: humble, honest, prudent, wise, discerning, fair and a unifier—Someone you may disagree with, but someone you can trust.


Enhanced Interrogation and Johnathan Gruber

The recently released Senate Intelligence Committee report on the use of torture subsequent to 9/11 and the uproar over Jonathan Gruber’s remarks about the necessity of subterfuge to pass the affordable care act, remind us there are people who believe an end may justify the means.

Gruber’s remarks expose the use of subterfuge to subvert the political process.  He admits, if it were known how the act would affect most people, the legislation would have never passed.  He concedes the law was written in a “tortured way” to hide tax increases and other defects.

Abraham Lincoln famously stated, “You may fool all the people some of the time; you can even fool some of the people all the time; but you can’t fool all of the people all the time.”  Unfortunately, many politicians believe they can fool all the people all the time.  There are politicians—liberal, conservative, independent, of all stripe—who utilize misinformation, innuendo and fear to win votes and pass legislation.  They use taxpayer money to pay “experts” and “learned people” to provide support for their causes.  They believe the means they employ are justified by the outcome they seek: sometimes public policy; other times filling their own coffers.

The Senate report on enhanced interrogation techniques forces a national debate about our beliefs and convictions.  Pricking our conscience, it occasions us to examine whether the end justifies the means.  It makes us focus on the kind of people we believe we are and the kind of values we will pass to further generations.  However, a lack of context undermines the effectiveness and calls in to doubt the intent of the report. 

To be relevant, any examination of an action must include the perspective under which the action was taken. To not do so, leaves out the precipitating cause and impedes a discussion as to what action should be taken in a similar circumstance. 

The enhanced interrogation techniques as described in the senate committee report were in response to the attacks of 9/11.  When viewed in the light of what occurred, it is understandable why good people permitted their use.

At the time, there was an expectation of further attacks.  Fear ruled the country: airports, train and bus stations were patrolled by armed soldiers and it took courage to attend a public event.  Bolstered by reports of anthrax filled envelopes, we were horrified at the concept of an imminent biological attack.

Our country’s leaders shouldered a grave and heavy responsibility for protecting the people they served.  The president was soundly criticized for lacking the covert intelligence that could have thwarted the attack.  From both sides of aisle, members of congress called for an increase in obtaining operational information. 

The people who were interrogated were not combatants fighting on a field of battle.  They were evil men who conceived and instituted a plan designed to purposefully kill or maim innocent people. Their involvement and guilt was beyond question; as was a certainty they possessed information that could prevent further attacks.

No, the end does not justify the means.  To believe so is to head down the slippery slope where the benefits of “outcomes” are exaggerated and “means” become more appalling. This understanding must apply to all circumstances: enhanced interrogation, as well as, political manipulation.  It is intellectually dishonest and hypocritical, to point your finger at one but because you agree with the outcome, to accept the other.

Enhanced interrogation techniques in the aftermath of an attack that killed over 3,000 people and the use of subterfuge and lies to insure the passage of legislation.  Both were means to an end: one to derail an attack and the other to pass legislation that otherwise would not have done so. When viewed in context, the report on enhanced interrogation techniques will give rise to a moral debate on whether we should sacrifice beliefs and values to prevent a deadly attack. While the other—purposefully misleading the people to achieve a political end—if left unchecked, will eventually lead to the demise of our democratic institutions.


Diminutive.  Loving, patient, kind, tough are other words that describe Johnny but diminutive is the word that comes to me.


A small woman, no more than 5 feet tall and weighing less than one-hundred pounds, Johnny packed a wallop.  When I would talk back to her, she would grab me by the collar, spin me around and whack my rear end to remind me sassing wasn’t allowed.

From before my first birthday until I left for college, Johnny Davis worked for my parents.  Six days a week, my mother would deliver her to our house; 8 hours later—4 on saturdays—she would take her home.  I don’t know how much pay she received—I’m sure less than $10 a day plus meals—but it wasn’t enough, not for a housekeeper, cook and stand-in mother.

My mom stayed involved in the community.  Bridge Club, Garden Club, Women’s Club, the Ladies Golf Association, every afternoon was occupied.  Her activities involved more than being a social butterfly, in a small community where relationships “mattered” her connections helped to build my father’s business.  In the afternoons Johnny cared for me: snacks served, cuts bandaged and  discipline applied—she could twist an ear until it almost fell off.  She loved me as the child she never had.

Playing with Byron McClellan, who lived close by, I fell hand first on a broken bottle.  Clutching my hand to my stomach I ran home.  Johnny hearing my cries, opened the back door and found me with what appeared to be a pierced stomach.  Dr. Hartley Davis–who delivered me, set bones and sewed me up until I was a young adult—closed the cut with stitches; I was fine.  Johnny wasn’t.  Years later, my father related how the shock of my seeming to be severely injured affected her for months.

I was sixteen, when my parents attended a weekend long meeting and left me  home alone.  Saturday night I hosted an unauthorized and ill-advised party: girls, music, dancing and alcohol—lots of alcohol.  I awoke Sunday morning to a wrecked home and an inability to do anything about it.  I felt as if someone was hammering a nail into my brain and my stomach heaved when I moved.

Staring out the window, contemplating running away, I saw Johnny climbing the back stairs.  I remember her words as she opened the door, “Look at you; you’re a mess.  Your momma and daddy are going to send you to military school, and you deserve to go—you hear me!  I knew you were going to get in trouble.” Then lifting me by my ear she growled,  “Get up and get going, we have a mess to clean up.”  To keep her “baby” out of trouble she sacrificed her day off.

When I left for college, my parents purchased a smaller home and let Johnny go.  After college, I would visit Johnny only infrequently: sometimes by choice but more often because she would need something.  The woman who loved me enough to bandage my wounds, smack my butt and clean up my mess, to my sorrow, became an object of my charity.

I cannot think about Johnny without reflecting on the culture in which I was raised.  The business and professional communities my father belonged to participated in a racism that in ways proved to be more harmful than the hate-filled dark side of the South.   Their’s reflected a patronizing duty to care for what they believed to be inferior people.  They couldn’t abide the race haters—but they treated as children, the people who tilled their fields, labored on their jobs, cooked their food and cared for their infants.

Aspects of the old south are reflected in the attitudes of some of today’s leaders.  The patronizing conviction that “we know what is good for you” leads  the condescending Mayor Bloombergs of this world to try and dictate people’s lives. Elitist thought—whether based on race, education or wealth—is bigoted, anti democratic and limits freedom and opportunity.

Free people are allowed to make their own decisions—even bad ones; they are rewarded for taking risks and allowed to fail.  Free people create prosperity that lifts all and provides the means to help others.

Tighter Than Bark On A Birch Tree

“Tighter than bark on a birch tree;’ ‘He can squeeze a nickel so hard the buffalo screams;’ ‘He has short arms and long pockets” All of the preceding could be applied to the owner of the pizza restaurant where I worked. Hovering over a pizza, he would scowl if there was one extra piece of pepperoni; he limited salad dressing to a tablespoon and we poured 11 not 12 ounce draft beers.

Knowing how tight he was, I couldn’t keep quiet when he told me to put extra ingredients on a customer’s pie. “Mr. Styles, are you sure you want me to ‘load’ this pizza?”

He surprised me with his answer: “Yes. He’s a regular customer, spends a lot of money and I want to make sure he keeps coming back.”

Years ago, Terri and I regularly frequented a Winter Park seafood restaurant. They served good food and Freddy our waiter always took good care of us: on a crowded night, even without a reservation, we would be seated; occasionally a free appetizer or glass of wine would appear and he always knew when there was a special occasion. In Winter Park, there were numerous restaurant choices but we always returned to where we were welcomed.

I’m a creature of habit, on Mondays I eat at a local Wendys and Thursday is “taco day” at Taco Bell. Only once has the Wendy’s manager spoken to me and then to explain that they were charging me more than the listed price because the listed price was wrong. The Taco Bell manager treats me like I’m the franchise owner: he greets me with inquiries about my health; from time to time there is an extra taco on my plate and he checks to make sure everything is alright. The quality of the food and the service at the Wendy’s restaurant is better, however, I prefer the taco place.

People are confronted with a variety of options when it comes to almost everything: restaurants, stores, entertainment and relationships. With numerous choices, deciding what to spend money on is a challenge. Product, service and price are the primary drivers of the decision, also playing a part are intangible elements, such as demonstrating appreciation.

Gratitude is also important in personal relationships.

Tired, reading a novel and beginning to fall asleep, I only grunted in response to Terri’s account of dealing with a problem. Sensing her silence, I looked and found her staring at me with a hurt expression. She had spent her lunch hour tending to our predicament and my appreciation was an annoyed grunt. My response had hurt her feelings and dampened her excitement over a task well done.

Business people readily recognize that relationships are built upon a foundation of honesty, trust and service. However, they often fail to acknowledge appreciation as an additional important element. Gratefulness demonstrates a selfless willingness to recognize other people’s efforts and achievements.

In our business as well as personal lives, a generosity of spirit often determines the depth of our connection with others.


The deepest principle in human nature is the craving to be appreciated.” – William James

The Fear of Being Wrong

Our air conditioning department manager convinced me to bid the heating and air conditioning work on three school additions. I was nervous about doing so because the specifications called for chilled water air conditioning—systems we had little experience installing. However, he convinced me that he knew what he was doing and if we got the jobs, we could perform the work. We won the bid, installed the systems and they did not operate.

The problem resulted from chilled water not moving through the system at a high enough volume. We first believed the lack of flow resulted from entrapped air—so we hooked garden hoses to the piping and ran the pumps continuously to remove the air. Sure enough, with the nozzle of the hose in a bucket of water, you could see huge bubbles of air belching from the pipes; but the air conditioning units still didn’t work.

The architect decided the systems were was clogged by dirt from unclean piping.  When they reported this, the school authorities threatened our contractor customers, who contacted our bonding company—the situation was getting worse.

Not understanding the intricacies of chilled water-cooling, I was afraid we had done something wrong. Day after day, I would spend hours at each job site, running the pumps in hope the systems would purge themselves. During school board meetings I defended our installation and I avoided answering the questions from the local media. We were spending thousands of dollars trying to make the systems work; we were not getting paid for the work we had performed and our reputation was being ruined.

At my wit’s end, I decided to hire a consulting engineer to review the plans, specifications and our installation. I forwarded the documentation to the engineer and arranged for him to tour the jobs. A couple of days later he called and told me there was no need to inspect our work; that upon reviewing the plans he had determined the pumps were too small to maintain the required water flow. I forwarded his written report to our customers and the problem was solved—in fact, we were paid to change out the pumps. I made a serious error by undertaking a job that I did not understand and I compounded that error by being afraid to be wrong.

The fear of being wrong, can lead to not being able to uncover the cause of a problem and lead to the problem becoming worse.  A decision based upon incorrect facts is bound to be an incorrect decision—before coming to a conclusion, you should question everyone involved, obtain outside opinions and follow the paper trail.


It is wise to direct your anger towards problems — not people; to focus your energies on answers — not excuses.” – William Arthur Ward

Traits That Define Leadership

I learned long ago that it’s easy to criticize—it’s tougher to do.  Politicians are particularly susceptible to learning this lesson the hard way when they discover the promises made seeking office often can not be kept when facing the reality of governing.

Whether it is the president of the United States or the president of a company, a teacher or a parent, people run into trouble when they put aside the traits that define great leaders.  These traits include:


As vice president, Harry Truman was not privy to the plans and decisions made by president Roosevelt. When suddenly thrust into the Presidency, it would have been easy for him to defer decisions because of this lack of knowledge but instead he made the tough decisions and took the responsibility for them.  The sign on his desk read, “The buck stops here.”


You knew that once his mind was made up, Ronald Reagan was not going to change it.  An example was the air traffic controllers.  Reagan told them if they we on strike he was going to fire them.  The media went crazy: “You can’t do that, air travel will come to a halt.”  Well, they went on strike, he fired them and the planes went on flying.

Being consistent means making  decisions, sticking with them and  approaching problems in a steady, stable and most importantly, predictable manner.


George Washington had a reputation of being scrupulously honest: his word was his bond and you could believe what he said. Because they believed in and trusted him, despite terrible hardships, the men of the continental army continued to soldier under his command; eventually winning the American revolution.

The respect he earned  allowed him to win the peace by pulling together varying factions to write the U.S. Constitution.  His efforts led to the United States becoming a great nation and to his being recognized as the founder of our country.

You cannot lead if people don’t trust your words or your actions.


Theodore Roosevelt came from a family of wealth.  Although he could identify with the “captains of industry,” he realized that great fortunes were being built upon the backs of working people: that trusts and monopolies reduced competition and unnecessarily raised prices.  Roosevelt undertook a campaign to break up the trusts and monopolies and became the great “Trust Buster.”  His compassion for the little guy won him fame, popularity and respect.  The laws he helped to craft and pass still govern our nation’s commerce.

Avoiding Being Precipitous

Operation Overlord, the WWII invasion of France, involved hundreds of thousands of troops, countless ships and millions of tons of supplies, all coming together at the same time at the same place.  Dwight Eisenhower led the effort to formulate the plan that led to a successful invasion and the liberation of Europe.  Eisenhower knew that success is based upon planning: that hasty decisions can lead to disastrous results.

Eisenhower also knew that reckless words can destroy a relationship.  When George Patton spoke impetuously about the British people, he found himself without a command.

A Willingness To Put Ego Aside

Abraham Lincoln strived to surround himself with quality people: bright lights that often outshined his own.  He realized that the more successful his subordinates were, the more success he would have in his efforts to save the union.  He did not hesitate to fire generals who were not performing and did not care that the successful ones received more accolades than he did.  He was willing to set aside personal agendas and ego in his quest to fulfill his mission.


“In order to be a leader a man must have followers. And to have followers, a man must have their confidence. Hence, the supreme quality for a leader is unquestionably integrity. Without it, no real success is possible, no matter whether it is on a section gang, a football field, in an army, or in an office. If a man’s associates find him guilty of being phony, if they find that he lacks forthright integrity, he will fail. His teachings and actions must square with each other. The first great need, therefore is integrity and high purpose.” – Dwight D. Eisenhower

Mountain Climbing Over Molehills

I was complaining to my college roommate about a slight by a friend when he exclaimed, “Enough! It wasn’t that big of a deal. Let it go. ”  I was accustomed to things going my way and when they didn’t, it was a big deal.

In today’s society many people are unable to differentiate between the small and the big stuff: everyday words become major insults; a lawsuit over a bad meal; laws passed because people are inconvenienced; the firing of a celebrity from a televisions series occasions headlines for a week.  It wasn’t always this way.

The men I worked with on my father’s roofing and sheet metal crews didn’t sweat the small stuff—they knew what was important.   Some had labored to feed a family during the Great Depression—one told me his children lived with his brothers and sisters while he worked at a CCC camp.  Others recounted the horrors and hardships encountered fighting in World War II and the Korean conflict.

Their generation shook off the “small stuff,” conquered the “big stuff” and, with hard work and perseverance, created the foundation for the prosperity we enjoy.  Staring down hunger, fighting wars and working to build a better future for their children, they didn’t have time for petty issues.

I learned “big stuff” is going to come your way—everyone is going to deal with tragedy, illness and disappointment.   If every day inconveniences and perceived slights throw you for a loop, you will be unprepared to handle the major crises of life.

Here’s the deal: if something doesn’t radically change your life, then it’s probably not a big deal.  Lives are not changed by a car not starting; someone’s heritage being insulted or the Gators losing a football game.  A loved one suffering a life threatening illness; getting fired or a house burning down are radical changes.

A lack of perspective as to what  matters, results in an inability to differentiate between annoyances and life-changing events.  If every inconvenience, slight or mistake becomes mind consuming, then life becomes a continuing crisis leaving little time for anything or anyone.

High Blood Pressure

“One way to get high blood pressure is to go mountain climbing over mole hills.” – Anonymous