How's your reputation? When people run a Google search on your name or company, do you get worried? Is there anything you don't want revealed about your culture or brand?

Listen, the leadership journey is not for wimps. There will be scrutiny from all sides. That's why integrity....should be running through your veins. Without it, as history will tell us (Enron, Worldcom, etc.), you can count on massive failure and public shame.

Integrity may be a core value framed and displayed in conference rooms and hallways, but in reality, when you look under the hood, it's just lip service.

Integrity will thrive best in healthy cultures of low drama and politics, where the values on the wall are shared daily.

Matthew Fawcett, a Senior VP at NetApp, wrote in Forbes that integrity "may be the most critical element of corporate success today. And the lack of it is the surest path to your demise." But upholding integrity as a personal value may cost you.

Over two decades ago, while working as a young contract recruiter for a career conferences company, I was asked to lie to a client -- a Fortune 500 pharmaceutical giant.

My manager's 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 by doing so, challenged their leadership status quo. I was never asked to do another recruiting event for them again. A few years later, the company went out of business.

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 taking the higher road and doing the right thing.

As the famous saying goes, "doing the right thing, even when no one is looking," isn't always easy. However, staying true to yourself and your values, even when the results are unpopular, should be a non-negotiable.

Integrity is a choice we make, and must keep making over and over again. If this strikes your curiosity, start with these five very important reasons why integrity is so vital for success.

Reason #1: You don't question yourself.

Leading with integrity means that you don't question yourself. When you listen to your heart and do the right thing, you simplify your life and live in peace. Your actions are now open for everyone to see, and you don't have to worry about hiding anything.

Reason #2: You gain trust.

When we operate from integrity, we gain the trust of other people, especially those we work with closely. Others see you as dependable and accountable for your actions. Trust develops, people feel safe in your presence, and you gain influence.

Reason #3: You command respect.

A leader who walks-the-talk eventually becomes a role model that commands respect. Why? Because integrity is a hallmark of moral authority and ethical leadership, and people desire and long for it in leaders.

When you demonstrate integrity, your tribe will naturally gravitate to you because they respect you and your values.

Reason #4: You know truth.

When you walk in integrity, you discern between right and wrong, what is fair and just, and never mislead or exploit. As an honest character (with yourself and others), you walk in truth and light.

As the wisest King in history once said, "wisdom will enter your heart and knowledge [truth] will be pleasant to your soul."

Reason #5: You display humility as a leadership strength.

I've heard a few times from people in position of power that humility is weak. Yet this core virtue drives at the inner strongholds that make a bad leader: pride, self-centeredness, judgmentalism, control, and impulsiveness.

Author and thought-leader Jim Collins has probably dedicated more time writing about humble leaders than any other topic in his landmark study of Level 5 Leadership. He states,

"Level 5 leaders channel their ego needs away from themselves and into the larger goal of building a great company. It's not that Level 5 leaders have no ego or self-interest. Indeed, they are incredibly ambitious--but their ambition is first and foremost for the institution, not themselves."

What's your experience with integrity? How has your integrity been tested to the limit? What did you do in response? Leave a comment and let's discuss.

Published on: Apr 15, 2016