All of us, at some point, have been frustrated at the ineptitude of some leaders. This is especially true when their actions have revealed an overt attitude of ‘what’s in it for me?’, or self-preservation, at the expense of others.
This frustration only increases when we have a perception that nothing can be done to address the lack of character shown by the people in leadership with the ability to affect our wellbeing.
A discussion on character, or values, may not be as riveting as the latest sales techniques, marketing strategies, or innovative product ideas. However, early Greek thought suggests, it is something we shouldn’t ignore.
Although not comprehensive, below are six perspectives leaders need to hold in careful tension as they contemplate the relationship between character in their lives and how it is expressed through their leadership:
Like Socrates, Plato and Aristotle, Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274 AD) believed our intellect gives us the ability to choose virtue or vice, and that it is ultimately the gift of grace that enables us to achieve ‘greater’ goals in place of self-centered ones.[i] This is founded on his belief that our “mind is guided naturally by wisdom and supernaturally by faith.”[ii]
In many cultures—particularly in the West—this worldview is not an easy thing to accept; we compartmentalize the physical from the spiritual, our intellect from our emotions, our work life from our personal life and our public life from our private life; character, however, should permeate through all of them.
We know that a lack of character in one area of a leader’s life quickly infects other areas in his or her life and, therefore, it is understandable that people begin to lose faith in their leaders when this happens. After all, their character is not seen to be resilient or trustworthy.
Below are some questions for further reflection: