Character: The Necessary, Yet Often Ignored, Trait to Define Leaders of the 21st Century

The Character of 21st Century Leaders_3x5 Leadership

In May 1991, following Desert Storm and months before his retirement, GEN Norman Schwartzkopf gave a speech to United States Military Academy (USMA) Cadets. In it, he argued that the two essential traits that must define leaders of the 21st century are competence and character (I highly encourage you to check out the inspiring speech here, in parts one, two, and three). So much time, money, and effort are poured into developing leader competence to achieve performance capacity and organizational success. Hundreds of books, journals, podcasts, and blogs (to include this one) center around developing leader competence. Yet, we pay less attention to character development. I believe it is because character is so intangible, hard to define, and even difficult to determine its impact on an organization; I think it is easy to determine if someone has bad character but it is less clear to determine if they have good character.

Deliberately addressing character is an organizational and leader developer necessity; the lack of such attention is ultimately the root cause of our society’s seemingly extensive erosion of integrity and respect showcased by the many downfalls of high visibility leaders (to include military) and once respected celebrities. My previous brigade commander constantly reiterated to his subordinate leaders that “character counts more than resume.” Continue reading → Character: The Necessary, Yet Often Ignored, Trait to Define Leaders of the 21st Century