In view of the above title, perhaps we should be assessing what schools of leadership at colleges and universities are teaching. I offer the following assessment based upon the ideal definition of leaders… those who are both ethical and effective. This character definition of leadership excludes the greater number of our countries leaders, those that maybe effective, but as Dr. Lerner of Tufts University states… “Leaders who show little evidence of possessing admirable attributes of character.”
Rich Lerner also notes that one of the key components is providing opportunities for students to get involved in leadership are through the moral action of character experiences. After hundreds of peer reviewed character publications, Rich believes character develops through mutually influential relations between an individual and multiple and interrelated settings of his or her life. *
My own assessment is that leadership scholars have not sufficiently incorporated the study of character development into the curriculum of leadership studies. In addition to work of Rich Lerner, character philosophy and doctrine have been incorporated into few college and university leadership schools. In addition to our military academies, solid foundations for incorporating ethics into student’s studies are the few honor codes at major universities. For example, The University of Virginia’s Honor Code is at once an injunction and an aspiration. The injunction is simple: students pledge never to lie, cheat, or steal, and accept that the consequence for breaking this pledge is permanent dismissal from the University.
Posts ahead will scan our country’s leadership schools to see if others are incorporating character concepts like trust, competence and caring in developing their students into effective and ethical leaders.
* Character Is Not Something That Can Be Taught