The character of our business leaders is a major factor for driving successful organizations in the world today, and having a strong moral character will continue to be the key difference maker among leadership teams of the top corporations in the world. This is the argument laid out in Return on Character written by Fred Kiel. In his book he advocates that leaders and leadership teams need to be comprised of individuals with strong character if they are to build real value for their shareholders, communities, and for those working for the company. Kiel gives us many examples of how character can help a company thrive and win in today’s business environment, and he starts his book by taking a deep look at just what character is.
Early on Kiel establishes that character is defined by our belief system and our daily actions and behaviors. “Character has to be expressed through behavior. Integrity, responsibility, forgiveness, and compassion don’t live inside us. Our behavior, especially as demonstrated through our relationships with others, is where our character comes to life. Which means that, despite the common wisdom, character isn’t some hidden quality that no one can really know or assess.”
I like Kiel’s quote because it shows just how prominent our character truly is in our lives, and how important it is that our behaviors and interactions represent our true character. It does not mean that we must go out of our way to be showy and ostentatious, but it does mean that our character should manifests itself in all of our actions, be they grand charitable acts, or small actions barely perceptible within a conversation. In order to build this character we must develop a level of self-awareness which allows us to consider others and our actions toward others as much as we consider ourselves and our desires. To foster the character needed to succeed in today’s business world we must be able to take our drive, passion, and focus for success, and recognize that we depend on others to reach the levels we desire. By creating more value for others, as Bob Berg would suggest, we can begin to increase the strength of our relationships and develop a strong moral character that is based on being a great person towards others.