Dr. Jesus Estanislao of the Institute of Corporate Directors once graced a governance forum at the Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP) where he extolled the values of integrity, fairness and accountability in all that we do. Being a development bank, he asked DBP to remember they work not just for the themselves and the institution but for a larger community, not just for today but for the future.

The DBP Credo proclaims: “I believe the mission of DBP is to make the Filipino productive and competitive.” Dr. Estanislao, who presided over the institutional strengthening of DBP as its Chairman in the late 1980s, reminds the staff to go beyond words. What we say we must do.

To ensure order in one’s life, we have to be men and women well grounded in basic principles and with clear direction. We cannot be without a framework. Progress is not achieved by people who ask and demand from others without first asking of themselves on how they can contribute positively to the general welfare. Basic in this framework is integrity which serves as one’s passport and competence which represents one’s tool.

In short, we must walk the talk. A person’s own talk represents what one believes in, and this should translate to what one actually does in life and in work. It means backing up or proving what’s said with action and practicing what’s preached.

In my book, walking the talk is leading with integrity. Integrity involves character, honesty, transparency and accountable leadership. Individuals with integrity in the workplace not only understand what is right from what is wrong, but they practice it in day-to-day and strategic decision making. In a business environment characterized by integrity, an atmosphere of trust develops which sets the foundation for teamwork and professionalism in business relations.

It is unfortunate that the workplace is littered with people who simply talk the talk. They are good at picking the right words, even delivering sermons about certain desirable behavior. They talk like they are saints, but their actions reveal their worth. They make all kinds of demands from others, but they themselves are lacking in many ways as they get entangled in conflict of interest positions. At the end of the day, these people are only good at being phony and appearing in a way that impress people. But they actually behave otherwise. Talking the talk is about being good at the art of pretext. I once read a comment in Quora which quotes from a Hollywood cliché: “Sincerity is the key to success in Hollywood. Once you can fake that, you can get anything.”

Integrity is critical to fostering a positive workplace culture. It leads to good decision making and correct actions and implementations. The alternative is irresponsible behavior and distrust which makes the work environment uncomfortable and tense. A leader with integrity will gain the trust and respect of the organization. An organization headed by trusted leaders, whether in the board level, in management or in the various units in the structure, will ultimately perform better.

Recently, Manila Mayor Isko Moreno launched an “anti-epal” policy that explicitly prevents politicians’ names and faces from adorning government initiatives. However when Eastern Communications launched the free wi-fi kiosks in Manila, they named it “ISKOnek.” The move drew a lot of flak in social media, and true to form, Mayor Isko ordered the change to “MNLkonek.” By his immediate response, the new mayor showed he could walk the talk.

In a previous column I entitled “Integrity is Forever,” I quoted from Amy Rees Anderson who wrote: “integrity means doing the right things at all times and in all circumstances, whether or not anyone is watching. It takes having the courage to do the right thing, no matter what the consequences will be.” She advised that if you want to build a reputation of a person of integrity, then surround yourself with people of integrity.

The views expressed herein are his own and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of his office as well as FINEX.


Benel D. Lagua is Executive Vice President at the Development Bank of the Philippines. He is an active FINEX member and a long time advocate of risk-based lending for SMEs.