Brunswick Review The Integrity Issue

The Integrity Issue

Integrity is more easily recognized than defined.

Growing numbers of organizations are embracing integrity, in some cases explicitly requiring it of executives (page 59), even in the absence of a clear definition. The lack of definitional clarity hasn’t slowed a movement among regulators and executives to formalize commitments to integrity.


This edition of the Brunswick Review shares insights and research on integrity from Brunswick advisors, as well as interviews on the topic with prominent leaders from business and government.

One of the most consistent embodiments of corporate integrity may be found in the products, workmanship and services of iconic brands such as Cartier jewelry (page 32) and J.M. Weston shoes (page 52). Both are French companies that date back to the 19th century and make products designed to last forever. Proof that such excellence is no historical relic can be found on page 22, where MerchantCantos’ Matt Shepherd-Smith recalls an encounter with Sir Jony Ive, chief designer of the iPhone and other Apple products. 

A particularly powerful expression of integrity is the acceptance of responsibility. When a long streak of triumphant quarterly earnings ended unexpectedly at Informatica, then-CEO Sohaib Abbasi tells Brunswick (page 29) that his investigation led to his own desk. His message to the Street: “I made a mistake.”

No less admirable is the sharing of credit. In describing the integrity-based principles that made Sequoia Capital a legendary Silicon Valley venture capital firm, Global Managing Partner Doug Leone (page 24) made an unusual request: He didn’t want his photograph to appear until the fourth page of our article, behind an opening visual that symbolized the entire firm. “Ours is a ‘we’ culture,” he says.

Efforts to ensure internal integrity have made a staple of corporate compliance programs. But Harvard Business School’s Eugene Soltes, who wrote the book on white-collar crime, says his research found employees game those programs (page 73). For example, in one case employees took an average of three minutes to “read” a 50-page code-of-conduct document. Among the solutions? Shortening the document.

In my conversation with David Axelrod (page 40), he argues integrity must be not only lived but communicated, to win the trust of stakeholders or voters. Leaders of currently “enfeebled” governments, he says, must rebuild the public’s trust in order to push back against demagoguery and heal the divisions in society.

Integrity may be best nurtured by leaders modeling it. In our profile of former US Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole (page 14), he cites as his proudest accomplishment a bill he co-authored with a Democrat—a reminder, especially relevant in today’s polarized environment, that compromise can be a virtue. 

We hope you find this edition of the Review informative and inspiring.


Neal Wolin is Chief Executive Officer of Brunswick Group, based in Washington, D.C.
Illustration by Edmon De Haro

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