Character and Leadership

Across the wide-wide worldwide web Leadership Blogosphere,  I have so far been enjoying a Washington Post NATIONAL piece about Leadership Character. It’s a six-part series by West Point’s Col. Eric Kail. The good Col. is an Army field artillery officer who has commanded at the company and battalion levels. He is the course director of military leadership at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.  Kail also holds a PhD in organizational psychology.  With stellar credentials like that, I’m “listening” so to speak. In his inaugural, published June 6 he outlines six components to leadership character and promises to blog on each “facet” throughout the Summer:

  1. Courage (Published 6/23/2011)
  2. Integrity (Published 7/8/2011)
  3. Selflessness (Published 7/22/2011)
  4. Empathy (Published 10/28/2011)
  5. Collaboration
  6. Reflection

First, I applaud Col Kail’s approach to focus on  “character development” vs. the traditional emphasis on what leaders actually do and the behaviors they uniquely display.  Here’s how Kail makes the distinction:

While most leadership discussions center on what leaders do, this short series is intended to generate a dialogue on leadership character. Some might say that leaders’ character, who they are, in fact determines what they do. I say, then all the more reason to focus our leadership literature and dialogue on character development.

Hear! Hear!  But what really won me over was the 6/23 Blog about the first facet: Courage.  It’s a quick read and Kail keeps it at a high level just enough to intrigue. Kail’s focus on “moral courage” vs. “physical courage” was food for thought, especially regarding our human tendency to overrate ourselves on both counts.   Kail directs the reader–not to heroics– rather, to look within at daily decisions that demonstrate courage or not.  No need to say more– go read it.  As for me, I plan to ponder my own leadership development and credit Col. Kail for some new great material during upcoming speaking engagements. Courageous stuff!

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