“In looking for people to hire, you look for three qualities: integrity, intelligence, and energy. And if they don’t have the first, the other two will kill you.”
— Warren Buffett

If you don’t know Warren, he’s an American industrialist and philanthropist widely regarded as one of the most successful investors in the world. Often called the “Oracle of Omaha”, he is the primary shareholder, chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway. He is consistently ranked among the world’s wealthiest people (third wealthiest person in the world as of 2011).

So he knows what he is talking about.

It’s interesting Warren places integrity first. In today’s work- and marketplace, the focus is centered on intelligence and energy. How much do you know? What experience do you have? What have you done? Are you willing to spend 10-12 hours a day (and more) knocking it out of the park for me?

But we always forget about integrity. A definition of integrity — “Adherence to moral and ethical principles; soundness of moral character; honesty.”

Let’s be honest — how many times do you experience a concerted effort by management to adhere to moral and ethical principles? Where everyone displays a powerful moral character? Where people don’t lie and endeavor to tell the truth in their business dealings?

I’m not saying the marketplace or workplace is totally devoid of integrity. But it does take a back seat to profits, targets, stock price and power. Not even a back seat . . . it’s in the trunk with the spare tire.

In the wake of all the turmoil with Wall Street, Washington, and many boardrooms, (and even on Twitter lately) we all need to begin to make harder choices based on integrity. Who we invest in, who we purchase from, who we do business with.

And sometimes we need to look within for our anchor to integrity — because sometimes we fall short. We need to also pay attention to our own actions and decisions and how they impact others.

Whatever we do, we will continue to face ethical challenges. It’s how we react to them that counts.

What do you do to stay ethically anchored?