Ever been placed in a situation where your integrity was really put to the test? Let me share a little story from about fifteen years ago.

I was contracted by an HR firm to manage a one-day career conference for a top pharmaceutical giant. My flight to Montreal, where the conference was held, arrived late and the client was fuming.

Back at the HR firm's HQ in Los Angeles, I was tasked with being the messenger of a blatant lie to the client. My handlers didn't want the client to know that they had blown delivering a key conference by botching my flight arrangement, and I was going to be the sacrificial lamb. Their attitude was, "The client doesn't need to know the truth of what happened, because if they did, it would cost us this account. So we need to give them our version of the story."

I refused and was never asked to do another recruiting event for them again. Game over, no parting gifts.

Integrity: Tow the Line or Do the Right Thing

Many of us have to make decisions that define who we are and what we believe in. It's arriving at the crossroads of choosing between towing the line or doing the right thing. And weighing the cost, because even "taking one for the team" can have an impact on our integrity, and ultimately, our reputation.

Hall of Fame football head coach Tony Dungy once said, "Integrity is the choice between what's convenient and what's right."

When we live our lives with integrity, it means that we let our actions speak for who we are and what we believe in. Integrity is a choice we make, and it's a choice we must keep making, over and over and over again.

The Case for Integrity

There are three very important reasons why integrity is so important for leaders and entrepreneurs to practice in this social economy.

1. You are at peace with your decisions.

Working and doing business in integrity means that you don't question yourself and others don't question your motives. You go with your gut instincts (your heart), and live with your choices in peace, knowing that you did the right thing. Your life is simplified by eliminating unwanted stress and worries that often come from unethical or regretful choices that don't serve others well. Your actions are now open for everyone to see because you have nothing to hide. As a leader, ask yourself, "what is my heart telling me to do, or not to do?"

2. You gain influence and boost your confidence.

Since integrity is a hallmark of ethical leadership, companies, clients, peers, followers, communities and families gravitate toward you because they know that they can trust you. It's a simple formula: Integrity begets trust, trust begets influence, influence begets confidence. Those you work with closely see you as dependable and accountable for your actions; they feel safe in your presence as you communicate openly and with their needs in mind. And as your influence expands and you walk the talk of integrity, your confidence grows daily.

3. You are conscientiousness with your work hours.

Working diligently and carefully managing your schedule exemplifies integrity. Too many time-wasting chats or gossiping around the coffee machine; too many two-hour lunches and breaks for personal texting; too much surfing on Facebook and Twitter on company time -- all of these things detract from work and reflect poorly on leadership and the ability to steward time well.