I stopped this past week for a second when I heard someone in a public place say “That Tim, what a character!” I was intrigued to find out if Tim was the sort of character who did crazy things and kept everyone guessing about what his next move would be. It got me to thinking about how people talk about character often like it’s only conversation-worthy if someone is provocative and outrageous. Why don’t we spend as much time talking about people whose character is fantastic in less outrageous ways?
I’ve noticed that talent counts for a lot in our Western society. As a culture, we tend to exalt and revere people who can kick a ball in a net, who can run like the wind, who can sing like a bird, or who can portray humans on stage or film. We follow every move of our superstars and hound them relentlessly to glean pictures and details of their lives for our tabloids and websites. We spend our hard-earned dollars to watch them perform, to cheer while they play, and to listen to their music, etc. We celebrate their talent as they ascend the ladder of success. And we keep cheering them until they reach the pinnacle of their fame and fortune.
Once they have reached the top of the heap, we sometimes find that while their talents are extraordinary and plentiful, they are not matched by an equal measure of character. When we find out that they are violent, or have addictions, or suffer from a lack of honesty and integrity, we watch them descend back into the sea of those who are not famous and wealthy. It’s a truth about our society that you can get to the top on talent.
Once having arrived, many of the famous find that they cannot stand up to the intense scrutiny when the tabloids and websites dig into their habits and character. Their poor choices in their private lives or business dealings gain attention, and our adoration leaves them as quickly as it found and propelled them from obscurity to fame. The biggest truth about our culture seems to be that talent can get you to the top of your profession, but if you wish to stay near the top for long, you will need character to keep you there.
Think about how many popular musicians, actors, and sports stars have risen to the top only to become an embarrassment once the lens of the paparazzi becomes focused on their every move. I won’t attempt to name them because it would take too long. We all know of dozens of examples, and the names aren’t important. So, what does it take to stay on top? What are the character traits that help us to continue to perform at a high level when our talent has helped us ascend the ladder?
Here are some likely character traits that will have people saying YOU are a person of character:
That list of 20 just rolled out of my head as I was sitting here drinking my Sunday morning coffee. I’ve been thinking a lot about character recently, as I’m charged with helping a lot of young professionals to become amazing leaders and managers for companies. At some point, in every journey, my emerging leaders and their coach have a good conversation about character.
We talk about what it is, how important it is, how you can develop more of it, what the impact of high moral character looks like, and many other related topics. A fantastic conversation every time, and one that leaves us both changed and better for the experience. Character is powerful stuff! When we see it, we can recognize immediately, a person of strong character. Sadly, we are able to spot just as easily, a person whose character is in need of an upgrade.
What about you? What does your character look like? Do you think about your character? Do you suspect that others are thinking about your character? Does it matter? What does your list of character traits look like? What SHOULD it look like?
I would love to hear your thoughts on my list of important character traits, and would love to hear about YOURS! Leave a comment to this article with your reactions to my list and post your own list of the top character traits. Do you believe that living with character is essential?
Michael is a business coach in the Twin Cities and works with Business Owners, CEOs, their leadership teams, and emerging leaders. If you’d like to receive Michael’s Best Practices document on Developing Character, leave an insightful comment to this article, and send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Also, you might want to check out Michael’s YouTube channel, where you can subscribe to receive Michael’s great videos on business excellence.