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A history lesson on integrity

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in Leaders & Managers,Workplace Communication

Trust is not only profitable but efficient, and efficiency increases the speed and profitability of business.

Take the ancient North African city-state of Carthage, west of Sicily. Herodotus, the Greek historian who wrote in the late fifth century B.C., praises the Carthaginians’ integrity in business. He describes Carthage merchants who sailed the Mediterranean Sea to trade along the African coast. They unloaded their goods and signaled citizens to come and trade.

The locals laid out what they considered appropriate payment, then withdrew without taking the merchandise. The transactions relied on mutual trust: No rules, no regulations, just protocol.

“Neither party is ill-used,” the historian wrote, “because the Carthaginians do not take the gold until they have the worth of their merchandise, nor do the natives touch the merchandise until the Carthaginians have taken the gold.”

Carthage flourished for 700 years. —Adapted from Perpetua’s Passion, Joyce E. Salisbury, Routledge.

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