By Mike Myatt, Chief StrategyOfficer, N2growth Character Matters...Character Matters...if our society can take anythingaway from watching the ridiculous nature of the publicdebacles that seem to occur on a daily basis, it should be thatcharacter matters. Character; that oft discussed leadership traitthat seems to be inexorably tied to sustainable success...whilemuch has been written about the importance of character, there issurprisingly little information in circulation which actuallydefines it. The word "character" surfaces in most everyarticle, blog post, speech, book, or even casual reference to thetopic of leadership so surely it must be easy to define...Intoday's post I'll take a crack at defining a word which is oftenused, and in my opinion often misunderstood...Some would say thatcharacter needs no formal definition; that it's a principle thatshould be universally understood by all, with anyone lackingunderstanding of the concept to be a person of bad character.Wouldn't it be nice if that was so? While this line of thinkingmakes for a good sound bite, it hints at a rather myopicand naive view of the world. You see, much of how onedefines character (good or bad) begins with their view of theworld as guided by their moral compass.One of my favorite sayingsis that "you measure a person's character by how they act when noone is watching, and by the choices they make when they believe noone will ever know." Regrettably, many people choose to livein two worlds...their public world, and their private world.The people who walk this fine line between the ever increasingconflicts posed by the duality of their principles are destined tosuffer as a result.The class of people mentioned above alsotend to subscribe to the theory of moral relativism.They believe anything that can be justified orrationalized by the need at hand, or worse yet, manipulated for adesired outcome, constitutes right thinking (some would callthis subjective reasoning). These subjective thinkers arethe masters of spin, who while often appearing to dothings right, often fail to do the right thing. People thatfall into this camp frequently exhibit an inconsistencyin their reasoning and/or positioning. While they woulddescribe themselves as flexible, fluid, andopen-minded, my take is that their character lacksintegrity and can be easily influenced. When a personallows popular opinion, or situationalcharacteristics to either define or supersede theirprinciples, then I suggest their character is flawed. Simplyput, my contention would be that if you subscribe tosubjective reasoning and you serve as your own moral compass,your character will only be as good or bad as your thinking at thattime. In contrast, others utilize a form ofobjective reasoning that is guided by a higher authority (law,religion, or some other third party code) which provides aconsistent set of governing principals or ideas. My belief is thatobjective reasoning will lead to a consistency of character and apredictable pattern of behavior (also reflected in both good andbad character, as well as the higher authority being subscribedto). People who subscribe to this line of reasoning may oftenchoose to ignore doing things right in favor of doing the rightthing. While they may be labeled as hard-headed, inflexible,extreme or even as zealots, you know where you stand with objectivethinkers. My belief is that an unyielding commitmentto principled behavior will serve you better than asubjective, ad-hoc approach eleven times out of ten.Itwas Ralph Waldo Emerson who said, "Character is higher thanintellect." I could not agree more with Emerson as virtually anyonecan develop their intellect, but it is the rare person who canretain their character. Emerson clearly understood the law ofscarcity in placing more value on character. The mostsuccessful business leaders of our time have built theirpersonal brand by consistently exhibiting strong characterregardless of the situation at hand. They let rightthinking, right decisioning and right acting serve astheir guide. If you have to manipulate the truth or compromiseyour values to gain an advantage, the advantage is notworth the perceived gain for any advantage gained indeceit will surely come at a very high cost...the sacrifice ofyour character.

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