Character Matters

Guest Correspondence

BY JENNIFER VIGNE SRQ DAILY SATURDAY PERSPECTIVES EDITION SATURDAY NOV 21, 2020

From a philosophical viewpoint, is a win a win, no matter how you played? At what point, if any, are you justified to bend the rules or even break them to ensure a victory? As long as performance is achieved, does the methodology matter? How does one wrestle with moral or ethical dilemmas such as these, and by what means do we reconcile them?

One of the unique characteristics of humanity is that we are conscious beings. As such, we have the ability to look inward and tap our individual principles and values when determining right versus wrong. We also can be influenced by outward pressures such as peers, performance evaluations, or even market forces that outweigh our internal checks and balances, thus creating internal conflict.

In either case, the defining qualities of a person’s character will be tested. And, as most of us will agree, character matters.

A recent survey from the Society for Human Resource Management found employers care more about soft skills such as integrity, reliability and teamwork than they do technical abilities. In fact, 87% of employers in this survey ranked integrity as one of the most important qualities when seeking new job candidates. Integrity goes beyond being honest, fair, polite and respectful. It is also reflective of one’s ability to make tough ethical decisions. In short, it is one’s character in action.

Our children learn by the actions we take. The adage “walk the walk, not just talk the talk” rings true. We all have the capacity to be role models for the generations that follow, and so we have an incumbent responsibility for our moral compass to shine brightly.

History has given us notable examples of those who have led lives undergirded by a bedrock of principles, a strong moral compass, and an innate ability to build consensus and achieve a shared vision. Abraham Lincoln inspired a nation when he delivered the Gettysburg Address, leading to the eventual abolishment of slavery, while Winston Churchill inspired the free nations to continue their fight against the tyranny of Hitler during the darkest hours of World War II.

While we don’t all need to aspire to the leadership levels of Lincoln or Churchill, we should give considerate thought and pregnant pause before we, as adults, speak or act. Why? Our children are watching, employers are hiring and character matters.

Jennifer Vigne is president and CEO of the Education Foundation of Sarasota County.

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