I was told of the story of a “regular guy” who used to be rich, used to co-own a finance discount house and a man of great integrity. His name was Adeyinka; the name may not ring a bell but I hope his story does.
In the late 1990s, a crisis hit the Financial sector and led to the collapse of many discount houses. The company Adeyinka ran also went under; though it was well run but external forces killed it. The company was highly leveraged at that time, so it was left with lots of debts on its book and its creditors were very unhappy.
Due to the magnitude of the crisis, many of the discount house owners left the country to escape from the shame and the wrath of their creditors. They literarily ran away and stayed incommunicado.
Adeyinka stayed in the country to face the shame. Initially, he was depressed; the weight of societal prejudice on people who are perceived as failures weighed heavily on him. The depression got worse as his home -front began to suffer financially; Adeyinka was broke. He stayed in this state for about 2 years; hoping that things would turn around. In all of this, he stayed true to his Christian values without wavering.
After the long wait and the realization that things were not going to change for the discount houses, he decided to apply for paid employment so he could foot his bills. He saw the advert for a CEO’s position for a bank. His friends told him that he would not be considered because of his history. Adeyinka went ahead and applied either way. He was honest with his resume and luckily, he was shortlisted for the executive interview.
During the interview, he left “nothing to imagination”; he told his full story, honestly. He mentioned the lessons he learnt from his failure and how the adversities made him a better man. The Executive Search committee of the recruiting bank asked Adeyinka if they could see the list of his defunct discount house’s debtors and also wanted to know why he chose not to run away. They asked him to consider their request and come back for a further interview at another date.
At this stage, Adeyinka had to consult with family, friends and his lawyer. The advice was unanimous; don’t do it. It’s mockery, you won’t get the job and the magnitude of your failure will become obvious. He went against their advice, went for the second interview with the list and also gave them the reason why he stayed back.
He explained: “I failed many people, few people failed me but in all, I learnt from the episode. I made a commitment to all the people who lost their money in our discount house that I would not stop trying to help them get back their money; it’s that commitment that made me stay back”.
Guess what…he was given the CEO’s position. The consensus on the recruitment committee is that this man’s integrity and honesty is impeccable. They gave him an impossible task and yet he was honest; even the measure of shame did not detract him from being honest.
Integrity is not measured when the going is easy, it is staying true to one’s values in the face of extreme adversity. It is not what we talk about, it is what we do.