Posted on LinkedIn by CIS Workforce Readiness Specialist Tim Waldo
The argument could be made that many of today’s leaders lack virtue. Good, honest leadership has always been in demand, however, these days glaring examples of leaders whose character traits caused them to fail readily spring to mind. No doubt, a person’s character influences their leadership.
Unfortunately, we can’t always know if leaders will accept the challenge to constantly work on improving their character. The University of Tennessee Center for Industrial Services (UT CIS) offers a wide range of leadership training; from basic skills for new leaders to advanced training for seasoned leaders; all intended to help people fully develop their leadership potential. This training encourages these up and coming leaders to view their development as a lifelong endeavor, and to continue to hone their skills on all levels; including their pursuit of self-regulation.
There are ways to improve one’s character. Consider Benjamin Franklin and his famous Thirteen Virtues. In his autobiography, he described his motivation as a 20-year-old for assembling this list saying, “I wished to live without committing any fault at any time; I would conquer all that either natural inclination, custom, or company might lead me into.” He admitted, toward the end of his life, that this was a lofty goal of which he had fallen short. However, his legacy speaks to his high level of attainment and to the achievements he enjoyed by setting his sights on a high moral standard. This is his guiding list of virtues:
1. Temperance: Eat not to dullness. Drink not to elevation.
2. Silence: Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself. Avoid trifling conversation.
3. Order: Let all your things have their places. Let each part of your business have its time.
4. Resolution: Resolve to perform what you ought. Perform without fail what you resolve.
5. Frugality: Make no expense but to do good to others or yourself: i.e., Waste nothing.
6. Industry: Lose no time. Be always employed in something useful. Cut off all unnecessary actions.
7. Sincerity: Use no hurtful deceit. Think innocently and justly; and if you speak, speak accordingly.
8. Justice: Wrong none by doing injuries, or omitting the benefits that are your duty.
9. Moderation: Avoid extremes. Forbear resenting injuries so much as you think they deserve.
10. Cleanliness: Tolerate no uncleanness in body, clothes, or habitation.
11. Tranquility: Be not disturbed at trifles, or at accidents common or unavoidable.
12. Chastity: Rarely use venery but for health or offspring; never to dullness, weakness, or the injury of your own or another’s peace or reputation.
13. Humility: Imitate Jesus and Socrates.
To help him concentrate on one virtue at a time, Franklin developed a score card. His was a very deliberate approach to improving his character, because each of these represented a choice that he could make.
Individually each of these virtues is important, but equally important is the idea of the list – that there is a process; a system by which people can work to improve their character.
When leaders take up this challenge and work toward self-discipline, it naturally influences their ability to lead. Are there any of Franklin’s attributes that we would not want our leaders to possess? This is obviously not an exhaustive list of virtues, but it is enough to make us realize that the values we cling to, the virtues that inspire us, are the underpinnings of our motivations to influence others.
As we work to groom tomorrow’s leaders, we should continue to provide solid leadership training, we should come alongside them with consistent mentoring and encourage them as they grow. We should also challenge them to diligently focus on improving their character through self-regulation while consistently displaying a good example that they might follow.