2006 — to character v characters in business

Nineteen years ago, Max DePree, in Leadership is an Art, wrote, “the art of leadership requires us to think about the leader-as-steward in terms of relationships:  of assets and legacy, of momentum and effectiveness, of civility and values.”

Just about a year ago, William Safire reminded us, in THE NEW YORK TIMES, that in the original Greek, the meaning of character is “to mark, to engrave.” 

Yesterday, Iconoculture reported that in 2005, 7 million people hit Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary, and the most sought-after word was “integrity.”

The issues of executive performance and compensation, celebrity CEOs and outrageous-to-obvious advertising and programming content all turn on the question of whether today’s leaders are interested in integrity.  DePree got it right, in that he provided the key to not just to doing the right thing but to what really delivers results.  As long as we are as concerned with legacy — with leaving things better than we found them — as we are with our own success and power, we stand a better chance not just of acting with integrity but of making decisions that make sense … because we’re focused on something bigger than ourselves, perhaps less mortal, and just the act of questioning and testing ourselves can often save us from a self-absorbed act. 

We might slip now and then.  But as long as we have a dictionary around, there is hope.  Here’s to corporate leaders who mark and engrave not our hides but our minds, in ways that lift us not just to buy but to follow.

One thought on “2006 — to character v characters in business”

  1. I believe the most important quality we need to look into the leader is his personal character (ethical and moral values) and his integrity. The Management Guru, Peter F. Drucker, emphasized this point: “For it is character through which leadership is exercised; it is character that sets the example and is imitated. Character is not something managers can acquire; if they do not bring it to the job they will never have it. A person’s co-workers, especially the subordinates, know in a few weeks whether he or she has integrity or not . They may forgive a great deal; incompetence, ignorance, insecurity or bad manners. But they will not forgive a lack of integrity. Nor will they forgive higher management for choosing such a person.”
    Leaders should not be judged by their grand visions and grandiose performances but their personal moral character and their integrity, ethical values of their vision and programs, and the morality of the process and choice of action leaders and their followers choose to achieve that. Riaz Malik


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