It's hard to think of a more widely respected investor than Warren Buffett. Were Buffett to invest in your company, it would be better off. You'd get his capital and he'd leave you alone to run your company -- rather than meddling -- as long as you met your financial targets. What's more, you'd get the Buffett brand which would send potential customers and partners flocking to your company.
Buffett likes to invest in the biggest winners and he has told the world what that means to him. In a speech to University of Florida MBA students, according to CNBC, he posed a thought experiment: If you could buy 10 percent of the future earnings of a classmate, what would you look for? And if you could profit from the failure of a classmate, how would you choose the biggest loser?
The biggest winner would not be the one with the highest IQ -- rather the winner would be a great leader of people. As Buffett said, "You'd probably pick the person who has leadership qualities, who is able to get others to carry out their interests. That would be the person who is generous, honest and gave credit to other people for their own ideas."
The biggest loser would be selfish and dishonest. "You wouldn't pick the person with the lowest IQ. You'd think about the person who turned you off, the person who is egotistical, who is greedy, who cuts corners, who is slightly dishonest," Buffett told the students.
What is Integrity?
Buffett's comments make it clear that he thinks the biggest winners have integrity. What exactly is integrity? Why is it important and how can you tell whether someone has it? In its simplest terms, integrity means telling people what you'll do and then delivering as promised -- which I also call fulfilling your commitments. But it's not just that -- it's also basing what you do on what I think of as the right values -- most notably treating other people with respect.
Integrity makes Buffett feel confident that he can trust a CEO to make decisions that boost the long-term value of the company. Integrity saves Buffett time -- freeing him from the need to constantly check on the CEO.
When Buffett first meets someone, he can tell whether a person has integrity based on "the very things they talk about, what they regard as important," CNBC noted. I don't know what things make Buffett think that someone lacks integrity at the first meeting. But here are five things I think send that signal:
1. Not giving straight answers to basic questions.
If someone asks you a basic question -- such as "How do you spend your time?" or "Where are you from?" make sure you answer the question up front. The longer you talk without answering a basic question, the more people will think you are trying to hide something.
2. Talking more about money and possessions than people.
Another common first question someone might ask is "What's top of mind for you?" If you start talking about how frustrated you are that you can't afford to buy the Bentley that passed you on the way to work, it makes people feel that you care more about money than people.
3. Minimizing how others have helped you.
It's very common in a first meeting for people to ask about your accomplishments. Someone interviewing you knows that you are part of a larger organization. If you brag about an accomplishment and fail to share how others on your team contributed to the success, they will doubt your honesty.
4. Being in too much of a hurry.
If someone asks you where you see yourself in two years, don't tell them you expect to be promoted to the executive suite in the next 12 months. Such comments will make people wonder whether you have delusions of grandeur and what corners you might cut to achieve your unrealistic aims.
5. Failing to follow through.
If you meet someone and offer, say, to send them a list of references by a certain time, they will be judging your response. If you fail to fulfill that commitment, an astute investor might decide not to spend anymore time with you.
Do the opposite of these things and cultivate the habits of integrity.