#1680 Death Before Dishonor

McRaven’s Thoughts on Integrity

Not too long ago, we briefly chatted about Admiral McRaven’s newest book The Wisdom of the Bullfrog.

Then, we chatted about the opportunity I had to spend some time with another Bull Frog (Vice Admiral Tim Szymanski) at a U.S. Special Operations Command event.

Today we’re going to go back and explore some more leadership wisdom from Admiral McRaven’s great book.

Let’s get straight to work.

As we discussed, McRaven’s new book features 18 military aphorisms that shaped his leadership style.

Today we’re going to chat about the VERY first one…


McRaven tells us: “Having a set of moral principles and being a person of integrity are the most important virtues for any leader. In the simplest terms it follows the West Point Honor Code: Don’t lie, cheat, steal, or tolerate those who do. This means be honest with your workforce, your customers, and the public. Be fair in your business dealings. Follow the Golden Rule: Treat others as you would have others treat you. If this sounds a bit Pollyannaish or like you’re in Sunday school, so be it. Being a person of high integrity is what separates the great leaders from the commonplace.”

He continues by saying: “After thirty-seven years as a Navy SEAL, I am too mindful of my own shortfalls to be overly self-righteous in telling the reader how to behave. However, in spite of my many stumbles along the way, I always found that having a set of principles helped me during the most challenging times of my life and my career.

Before you master any of the other axioms of wisdom, you must first strive to be men and women of honor and integrity. That is what sets the great leaders above the commonplace. It will not be easy. It never is. But it is not complicated.”

That’s from the first chapter of the book and the first axiom of the Bullfrog’s wisdom:

DEATH BEFORE DISHONOR (Be a person of integrity)”

As I read that passage, I thought of Stephen Covey and Nathaniel Branden.

In his great book, Primary Greatness, Stephen Covey tells us: “Character, what you are, is ultimately more important than competence, what you can do. Primary greatness is, at its base, a matter of character.”

Then Covey outlines the twelve key levers of success.

The first one?


He tells us: “When I was working in North Carolina, I was given a shirt imprinted with the state motto in Latin, Esse quam videri, which means ‘To be rather than to seem.’

This should be the motto of every person seeking primary greatness. Unfortunately, too often, ‘seeming to be’ substitutes for real integrity. It’s ‘seeming’ as opposed to ‘being.’”

And, in his great book, The Six Pillars of Self-Esteem, Nathaniel Branden tells us: “Integrity is the integration of ideals, convictions, standards, beliefs—and behavior. When our behavior is congruent with our professed values, when ideals and practice match up, we have integrity.”

Then Branden makes this VERY important point...

He tells us: “Observe that before the issue of integrity can even be raised we need principles of behavior—moral convictions about what is and is not appropriate—judgments about right and wrong action. If we do not yet hold standards, we are on too low a developmental rung even to be accused of hypocrisy. In such a case, our problems are too severe to be described merely as lack of integrity.”

Which begs the question…

What are the virtues with which YOU are most fiercely committed to living in integrity?


Are you living in integrity with them?

Let’s remember a couple of adages…

To be rather than to seem.


Death before dishonor..

As we humbly yet Heroically strive to live with total integrity.


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