All along he knew that his family was taking advantage of him, but felt responsible to help them, thus employing self-sacrifice. He did so once again with his affair with Dagny. He knew that he should divorce his wife, but he chose to let her determine the future of their relationship and complied with her decision, which was against his objective perspective. He went against his judgment and allowed himself to be exploited. This breach of integrity however is observed only in his personal life. He did not allow his professional opinion or business decisions be influenced by the looters and once he realized his mistake, he took responsibility for it and took the needed actions to successfully reinstate his integrity.
Another case of a breach of integrity can be observed in Robert Stadler. He is not a bad person, he values knowledge and science, just like the protagonists. He had a close relationship with Galt and shared most of his views. However, he chose the wrong battle. The fought to save the institute in order to keep science alive and he did do it following his own interest, as he is the head of the institute. So far so good. But his mistake was choosing to remain ignorant when he saw the fault of the government. He thought that having political connections would help him develop science and bring knowledge. Like Dagny, he knew that Rearden Metal was the best performing material on the market; he knew that it was safe and more durable, but he chose to ignore the truth. In attempt to preserve knowledge for society, he betrayed it. He succumbed to the threats of the looters and accepted the fake reality that he was being fed, disregarding his own consciousness and objectivity. He repeated his mistake once again, when he signed off on Project X against his better judgement.
He later realized that the government exploited him and wished to leave, but as a result of these breaches of integrity he was left with no place in the world. He was half a striker and half a looter, not both, but neither, and he knew it. He shared the values of the strikers, he wanted to be loyal to knowledge and help society. He wanted to be productive and to create, hoping that by complying with the governmental pressure would help ease the oppression of the thinkers by advancing science. But in betraying his integrity, he lost the trust of the people who could make a difference, leaving him with no place in either world.
The difference between Stadler and Rearden, was that Hank never compromised his professional integrity. He refused to sell to the looters and fought against the exploitation of the mind and even went to trial defending his judgement and decision. He refused to succumb to pressure even if it meant to risk going to prison and losing his metal. Even if he strayed from the virtue of integrity, he fought and stood behind his moral principles.
A modern businessperson could learn a lot about the importance of integrity by observing all of these characters and a good businessperson already knows the lessons which they teach. Having integrity as a leader, means being guided by your own judgement and knowledge, which makes you trustworthy and permanently successful. If you know that someone acts with integrity, you know that they will do what is best for the business and by extension the people. They will gain more customers, more contractors, and more professional employees (Williams). As we can see in Atlas Shrugged the people with integrity like Wyatt, Dagny, Hank, Francisco, etc., choose to follow Galt instead of trying to survive in the corrupt world of Mr. Thompson, James Taggert, Mouch and the other looters. Integrity inspires trust between a leader and a follower, an employer and an employee, a company and its customers. And trust is the foundation over which a relationship is built. When there is trust, employees know that the employer has good intentions and are more inclined to be dedicated and productive.
An example of a leader, who practices integrity is Elon Musk. On many occasions he has made decisions, which have been criticized by the public and media. However, he has always stood behind those decisions and followed his own knowledge and judgement, and this has made him one of the most successful men in the world. He advocates for thinking rather than blindly following process and another quote from him states: “Other advice I would give is to not blindly follow trends. Question and challenge the status quo. Make sure you understand the fundamental principles of what you’re trying to do before you get into the details, otherwise you could be building on faulty ground” (Elon Musk Leadership). This is a quote directly interconnected with Rand’s definition of integrity.
In his book Winners Never Cheat, Jon Huntsman writes – “There are no moral shortcuts in the game of business or life. There are, basically, three kinds of people, the unsuccessful, the temporarily successful, and those who become and remain successful. The difference is character” (Tracy). Atlas Shrugged confirms this. The unsuccessful, are those who do not even try to be successful. The temporarily successful are those like Jim Taggart, who choose corruption and people pleasing over ethics. Who become successful at the expense of their integrity, but once this becomes evident, their glory days are cut short. And those who become and remain successful are the thinkers – the Dagny Taggarts and the John Galts. The strikers, who live by their own judgement, who follow their own moral codes, who remain loyal to knowledge, and have the courage to stand up for themselves and take responsibility for their decisions. Those who perceive reality and refuse to comply with the false notions of society. Those with integrity.