(Character, as defined in Webster’s dictionary, as the aggregate of features and traits that form the individual nature of a person; moral or ethical quality; qualities of honesty, fortitude, integrity.)
I cannot pass up the opportunity to discuss the issue of character. It is an important ingredient of leadership. Here’s why. Trust (as I wrote in a previous post) forms the basis for any meaningful relationship. What behaviors interfere with developing trustworthiness? Here are seven I wrote about:
1. Breaking commitments
2. Speaking in half-truths
3. Saying one thing and doing another
4. Withholding information
5. Making excuses; not accepting responsibilities
6. Not keeping confidences
7. Talking about someone behind their back
What a leader does in their private life is their business. Personal freedom is an essential part of our democratic way of life. What does matter, however, is when personal activities carry over into public life; when these activities contribute to violating trust, and represent a misuse of authority (which interferes with the personal freedom and rights of others). This issue of separating personal and public lives then begs for the question, does anyone believe we can behave differently? Although today’s society seems to think so, I don’t.
What do we value in our leaders? What are we willing to accept? What are the boundaries? Who will choose? Do we tolerate one set of standards for one segment of our society versus another?
I expect leaders should value honesty, professionalism, equality, fairness and consistency. I believe leaders should model the behavior they desire from those they lead. I don’t believe leaders should disregard or diminish these values in the name of tolerance. How then can they lead?