Michael J. Kerrigan

Scanning the daily news confirms widespread pessimism that we are suffering from a crisis of confidence in those who are charged with leading our nation’s political, business and cultural institutions. Levels of trust in our leaders are at an all time low perhaps because many of today’s leaders may place self-interest ahead of the public interest.

In studying character development I have discovered leadership development has much the same aims. Leadership development implies developing good leaders that are both ethical and effective. I agree with the view that leadership is judged on only two criteria: ethics and effectiveness. Perhaps character development should be judged in a similar fashion?

I have sadly concluded that after 30 plus years of lobbying in Washington D.C., many Members adhere to Machiavelli’s The Prince, one of the more famous books on politics and leadership. In my view, the influence of leaders has been diminished as is reflected in a vote of no confidence in the opinion polls and an impression that many Members of Congress are corrupt.

One does not have to be a follower of C. Wright Mills (The Power Elite) to begin to believe that the political agenda is becoming more and more controlled by a powerful few, not by the powerless many.

Although both the character and leadership industries may have common roots in Aristotle, Plato, Marcus Aurelius and others, leadership studies have outpaced character studies in academic journals, research centers, advanced degrees, corporate spending, professional organizations and leadership development programs.

Doris Gomez in the 2007 “The Leader as a Lerner,” International Journal of Leadership Studies, writes, “Annual corporate spending on leadership development has risen to $45 billion from $10 billion in the mid 1980’s. Reports from the training industry say that nearly $50 billion is spent annually on corporate training and leadership development.” Figures in the second decade of the twenty-first century, are much higher

In the posts ahead, I intend to examine why the business of teaching how to lead has exploded in both academe and the commercial world, while the business of teaching character has not kept pace. I invite academics in both industries to enlighten me.

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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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