A Matter of Character
“Character is like a tree and reputation like a shadow. The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing.” ~Abraham Lincoln
I don’t want to slide into the politics of the current U.S. impeachment trial of Donald Trump.
However, the event makes an excellent platform from which to launch a few thoughts on the importance of character when it comes to people in positions of leadership.
Much as movie mogul Louis B. Mayer opined about the elusive, indefinable “IT” factor when it came to Hollywood stars, saying it was hard to define but he knew it when he saw it, so it is with character: We know it when we see it.
And we know it when we feel it.
For decades, I have done considerable reading and reflecting on the qualities that comprise a “person of character.” What does that euphemism imply?
I suggest that what we see demonstrated by a person of character, and therefore feel in their presence, is the following:
- An ethical compass
- Moral courage
- Clear vision
- Proactive/Solution focus
Those led by a person of character feel optimistic, engaged, and emotionally safe because they are being led by someone they deem as trustworthy, someone worth following.
I could feel “IT” while watching the Congressman and lead house manager Adam Schiff made his closing remarks at the impeachment trial to the Senate: This is a man of character, I thought to myself.
My list above is far from complete and may take a lifetime to develop.
However, this is what a person who lacks character demonstrates:
- Self-serving motivations
- Willful ignorance
- Bullying and bombastic discourse
- Lack of empathy
The result is that those who are led by that person end up feeling confused, conflicted and frightened.
“True character is revealed in the choices a human being makes under pressure – the greater the pressure, the deeper the revelation.” ~Robert McKee
Too many people in senior leadership positions lack a due north on their ethical compass, often choosing expediency and tribalism.
It’s hard to lead if you’re not a step ahead others. It is harder still if your character isn’t a step above as well.
The character of the United States is at stake—its principles and values.
It would be nice to have a people of character leading the way.
“You don’t realize how important character is in the highest office in the land until you don’t have it.” ~Adam Schiff