Integrity Matters
May 7, 2003

Chicks have right to offer their chirps

Question: (E-042)

Chicks have right to offer their chirps

The Dixie Chicks, are catching heat for remarks one of the members of the group made in England recently, expressing her embarrassment over President Bush with reference to the war in Iraq. The group has not really apologized for those remarks and now they're posing nude in the May 4 "Entertainment Weekly" magazine. Are they exhibiting integrity?

The Dixie Chicks have every right to express their ideas, anywhere and anytime, and on any topic. Fans have a right to expect consistency and predictability from their entertainers. When these freedoms (for the entertainers) and the expectations (from the fans) get too far apart, the relationship can deteriorate. The Dixie Chicks -- three talented singers-songwriters-performers, have built a fabulously successful reputation that has suddenly changed, at least in your eyes. They had become famous providing a certain kind of entertainment that included not only their brand of music, but also a predictable public image. For whatever reasons, much about them seems to have flip-flopped.

In clear business terms, they have a right to offer any product and image they choose. You can elect to accept or reject their new package. In your eyes they have violated a trust, and their decisions to pose nude is a radical departure of the brand image you had expected from them.

The actions being taken by the Dixie Chicks may not violate our definition of integrity. They are choosing activities (controversial political positions and crass nudity for the marketing of some changing professional image) that seem to be far different from what you and others had come to expect. These are their choices.

However, when public figures attract a great deal of attention, often associated with money, influence and celebrity, there may be unspoken requirements that they not detract from the accepted-image. Like it or not, we look to these leaders and we need for them to provide steadiness in an uncertain world.

The Dixie Chicks' current crisis is a good reminder for everyone. In one way or another, who among us is not responsible as a role model for someone? What the Dixie Chicks can teach us is that there are consequences when we choose not to control our behaviors, public or private. Those who look to leaders know that integrity matters and a predictable model of behavior can be source of strength for those about us.

Each of us has developed an image or a brand that those about us have come to appreciate, expect, and, upon which they are comfortable turning to when they make decisions. Parents and teachers, physicians and attorneys, elected officials and business executives, brothers and sisters, religious leaders and media moguls – each can improve society and enhance individual and organizational effectiveness when the brand or image represented to those who need them most is taken seriously.

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