The Character Building Project

Michael J. Kerrigan

 

The point made by Dean Stam* of The Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy is compelling. That is, character and leadership are not isomorphic and history and the contemporary national and world landscape are replete with examples of the fact that good character may exist in the absence of conventional conceptions of leadership and, as well, there is certainly a plethora of leaders who show little evidence of possessing admirable attributes of character.

As Mike Matthews has been studying for more than a decade at West Point, the challenge for educators is learning how to produce individuals who reflect desirable attributes of both character and leadership. Mike has certainly been the nation’s (and perhaps the world’s) leader in this scientific quest, and he has made considerable progress in identifying the character virtues co-varying with features of desirable and effective leadership. Moreover, through his being a champion and intellectual… Continue reading

One of the more influential readers of my posts recently stated, “There have been many effective leaders of relatively low character, and high character people who were not effective leaders.” He also stated “ Leadership as I see it, comprises a set of skills that can be learned at most any time.”

In my view, character can also be learned but slowly and carefully. I subscribe to teachers of the distant pass, such as Aristotle and Plato who taught that, whether teaching leadership or character, it is a long, hard and broadly based process.

One of America’s preeminent management consulting companies takes a slightly different view, as Accenture believes, ”leadership does not require formal authority or personal charisma and that every person has the capacity to lead effectively with integrity and that this capacity can be developed over time through discipline practice.”*

I was pleased that the Accenture Leadership… Continue reading

In previous posts I have made clear that both leadership and character development are legitimate academic undertakings. I have also stated that the former has outpaced the latter, at least in terms of student participation, funding and breadth of publications

Notwithstanding this gap, I just received very magnanimous explanation of why the gap exists. Here follows an excerpt of that explanation from the Dean of one of the country’s elite leadership schools.

Character is harder, starts earlier. Leadership as I see it, comprises a set of skills that can be learned at most any time. Character is a (the?) critical attribute of a person’s underlying nature, which determines how one interacts with other people: morality, honor, thrift, honesty, reliability, etc. If you think leadership is hard, try fixing character…oh wait, you are! There have been many effective leaders of relatively low character, and high character people who were not effective… Continue reading

 

In recent posts, I have been drawing parallels between the Leadership and Character Industries. Teaching how to lead (where the money is) offers another area where Leadership studies have outpaced Character studies.

Students who want to be leaders have a range of options from which to choose and can engage in a number of undergraduate activities (i.e. student government, sports and campus clubs, etc.) in addition to leadership courses.

Here are but a few of the scores of academic offerings which can be found on college campuses across the country:

UVA’s Batten School of Leadership & Public Policy

Yale University’s Leadership Institute

Harvard’s Center for Public Leadership

Northwestern’s Center for Leadership

University of Iowa Certificate of Leadership Studies

Rice University Study of Leadership

In addition to the hundreds of schools with majors in Organizational Leadership, there are MBA’s on Leadership, as well as professional leadership associations and Institutes such… Continue reading

 

Last post I suggested ethics and effectiveness were two criteria of good leadership. Also discussed was the impact of Machiavelli on leadership. Probing deeper into another insight of Machiavelli, in this instance, his endorsement of the art of deception… (”You must be a great liar… a deceitful man will always find plenty who are ready to be deceived,” *) how then do leadership scholars deal with lying in the context of their ethics criteria?

While lying may be useful to get ahead and is commonplace in today’s culture, one would think lying is a point of divergence between leadership and character scholars. Recently, I came across a study that may tell it all, namely: “Nobody Likes a Rat, On the Willingness to Report Lies and the Consequences Thereof.”**

Do you think we would need the Securities and Exchange Commission if corporations never misstated their financial statements? As… Continue reading

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Restoring Character in AmericaRestoring Character in America identifies the decline in character in our country, but then gives the reader hope for the future by showcasing leaders whose careers are successfully turning around this trend in our schools, communities, businesses, and the military.

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