Academic journal article The Public Manager

Leading with Character: What Can We Learn from a Recent Federal Government Human Capital Survey That Found That Many Employees Hold Their Leaders in Low Regard and Feel They Do Not Generate High Levels of Motivation and Commitment?

Academic journal article The Public Manager

Leading with Character: What Can We Learn from a Recent Federal Government Human Capital Survey That Found That Many Employees Hold Their Leaders in Low Regard and Feel They Do Not Generate High Levels of Motivation and Commitment?

Article excerpt

Leaders who possess qualities of high character stand out from the rest. The phrase "high character" conjures up images of luminaries such as George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, Abraham Lincoln, Nelson Mandela, Desmond Tutu, Martin Luther King, Harry Truman, Gandhi, Winston Churchill, and Mother Teresa. Each of these icons of history lived lives of service, dedicated to transcendent causes such as social justice, poverty, and the establishment and preservation of democracy. Most of these men and women were not morally pure, yet they had a compelling drive to contribute to the larger good.

While most leaders in organizations have smaller domains of influence, they can exhibit qualities of high character and make an important difference in their communities. We can all think of leaders in the federal service such as David O. Cooke (fondly remembered as the Mayor of the Pentagon), who earned enduring reputations for high character and exceptional leadership. Unfortunately, the results of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management's (OPM's) 2002 Federal Human Capital Survey seem to indicate that the prevalence of such individuals is limited. The survey reveals that federal leaders received low marks on several items that relate to the quality of character:

* 47.2 percent believe their leaders "maintain high standards of honesty and integrity."

* 55 percent believe they can "disclose a suspected violation of law without fear of reprisal."

* 43 percent "hold their leaders in high regard."

* 34.6 percent indicate that leaders "generate high levels of motivation and commitment."

If only 47.2 percent of respondents believe their leaders maintain high standards of honesty and integrity, then it would be understandable as to why so many hold their leaders in "low regard" and feel they do not generate high levels of motivation and commitment. If this is true, then one implication of this study would be to examine the criteria by which individuals are qualified for the Senior Executive Service (SES).

Executive Core Qualifications

Many federal agencies have put in place initiatives to identify and develop the next generation of leaders. These efforts typically focus on helping candidates meet the OPM's Executive Core Qualifications (ECQs). The ECQs are criteria used to assess readiness for the SES and are organized into five competency fields: Leading Change, Leading People, Driving Results, Business Acumen, and Building Coalitions/Communications. The assumption underlying this competency model is that when managers acquire these competencies, they are prepared to perform effectively as senior executives. I am proposing in this article that the ECQ criteria would be strengthened substantially if "high character" were added to the list of criteria. Perhaps if this took place, a pool of candidates with both high character and managerial competence would emerge from the competitive selection process.

Character Framework

By drawing on the history of ideas in philosophy, religion, and the management sciences, I define the attitudes, sensibilities, and beliefs that determine how leaders with character see, act, and live. Nancy Sherman, in her book, The Fabric of Character: Aristotle's Theory of Virtue, indicates that people of character are contemplative, just, and decent in ways of living as social beings. Following Aristotelian thought, she further indicates that they use both emotion and reason to ground the moral response. Using this broad definition as a point of departure, I have created a framework that attempts to specify what "leading with character" means in actual practice. The elements of this framework follow.

People of Character

People of character do the following:

1. Serve as responsible deputies working for the interests of others, much like a father or mother cares for their family. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.