Character in Leadership 

By Dr. Herb Byrd III

Sometimes it seems we choose characters for our leaders over leaders with character. 

This week we celebrate our country’s Independence Day. It reminded me of a quote attributed (though I have not been able to confirm) to George Washington. He is quoted as saying, “Character is the bedrock of success, for it shapes our actions, earns us respect, and inspires others to greatness.”  

In another quote, he wanted to maintain “the most enviable of all titles, the character of an honest man.”

Our public service profession is often described as best being served with a servant-leadership philosophy – also a character-centered leadership model.  Dan Rockwell, in his Leadership Freak blog on October 27, 2014, said “The purpose of leading is serving. The goal of leadership development is producing servants. Servant leadership is first about character, second about skill.” 

Admired leaders will most often have strong character. 

What is character? Many definitions refer to reputation, moral or ethical qualities, or traits such as honesty and integrity. The VIA Institute on Character has identified 24 Character Strengths within the general categories of wisdom, courage, humanity, justice, temperance and transcendence. They also offer free and paid versions of a character strengths assessment that is interesting and that our IPS Leadership Team members recently completed. I encourage you to try it out! ( – see the link on the main page to “Take the Survey Now”.

I know that I aspire to always L.E.A.D.! with character. I also know that I sometimes fail to meet my own expectations and likely those of others. Organizations need leaders who lead with character. Let’s all work to be that leader, not perfect but always striving.

George Washington quotes from:, accessed 6/30/2024.