Resources: Blog Post

June 10, 2015

Character Matters

Ian's Morning Musing imageSoccer is my favourite sport. This might be easy to understand when you learn that I was born a short, twenty minute walk away from an English premier league stadium. And, you might better understand my absolute disgust at the operating farce known as FIFA, and the damage it does to “the beautiful game.” In short, nine FIFA officials have been indicted by Swiss and U.S. authorities on charges of corruption, racketeering and other misdeeds, and I have little doubt that more scandalous information will become public in succeeding weeks. Sadly, we live in what is now dubbed “the age of scandal”, where we repeatedly see leaders conduct themselves in contemptible, shameful ways. The image of leadership has been so tarnished in recent years that we may even have reached the point where such outrages no longer shock us.

Image of Character matters quotePerhaps it was serendipitous or simply brilliant foresight, that a group of CHROs within SCNetwork spent an entire day discussing character and its impact on leader performance and outcomes. Mary Crossan, a professor of strategic leadership at the Ivey Business School, led that discussion. I suspect that some of you may already know of Mary’s work on character. Character, of course, is simplified as the mental and moral qualities distinctive to an individual, and the Greek philosopher Heraclitus, stated, “A man’s character is his fate.” If that is the case, then surely character matters. It is our character that leads to our thinking, behaviours and our actions. Mary co-authored an article with colleagues at Ivey, entitled “Developing Leadership Character,” and it suggests that, as we grow up, character becomes the sum of virtues, values and traits. As parents, we create a safe, nurturing and supportive environment that allows our children to grow up healthy. Much of that experience will impact “who” they are becoming. It also influences how they act and their judgment. Hence, character is foundational to effective leadership, and when combined with competencies and commitment – the three C’s – we have a powerful equation as we think about maximizing an organization’s leadership capability. We have devoted much time to developing employee competencies. Have we spent commensurate time developing character? Is that even possible?

Few would doubt that the FIFA officials have serious character flaws that led to this reprehensible behaviour. The model described in the article identifies ten dimensions of character and it provides an approach that CHROs can use to think about developing talent. Starting to understand how to shape character, using the ten dimensions, a simple question might be: how does HR develop the level of courage to address the rogue executives who destroy organizational culture?

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Ian Hendry is the president of the Strategic Capability Network. In his Morning Musings, he provides insight on issues facing today’s business leaders and looks at subject matter related to upcoming SCNetwork events. He is also VP HR & Administration at Interac Assocation.

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