The most important benefit that an individual can gain for themselves is living their values consistently every day. While watching the tributes to Martin Luther King on the anniversary of his death, I was struck by his wise words when talking with his followers as they were undertaking the challenge of Civil Rights. Dr. King said to them, “Be judged by the quality of your character.”
The past six months has been a roller coaster of world events, both politically as well as economically. Who would have predicted the steep decline in the price of oil and its impact upon a global economy? Who would have foreseen the mounting conflict in the Ukraine, with its terrifying potential for escalating into a nuclear confrontation? Who would have predicted a finish to the Super Bowl that defies even the imagination of the greatest script writers? It doesn’t matter which channel you turn on for the evening news, what you always seem to hear are the disasters, trials or tribulations that seem to be everywhere impacting our lives. In the land of the blind, a one-eyed man can be king. As I write this letter this afternoon, a person with a strong snowblower can be a hero in Boston or Hartford.
I would like to talk with you about what I believe Dr. King means by “Being judged by the quality of your character.” When we look at ourselves, what makes an individual stand out from the crowd? I believe the short answer can be summarized in very few words. He or she is an individual who is honest, truthful, caring, and morally courageous. Why is this important? Whether we are talking about a family environment, a corporate environment, or a political environment, we are talking about the essence of what builds and creates a culture. Values are at the heart of our culture, individually and collectively. Culture is where change can flourish or be frustrated. Reality is that change is always with us. Successful individuals have the ability to cope with and manage change, allowing them to continue growing, learning, and contributing. It’s my experience that the men and women I have had the privilege to work with, are successful because they are individuals who really do live their values, and in doing so, become powerful role models for all around them to seek and strive for excellence.
In today’s rapidly expanding technological world, it’s important to remember that our human insight, ingenuity and intuition cannot be replaced by a smart phone, iPad, or robot. Our humanism is a critical component for success, and with our DNA, we have the choice to be a person of integrity and trustworthiness who lives their values. In doing so, we become powerful catalysts for helping humanity strive for excellence. Men and women who can find their individual pathways to becoming leaders of excellence will indeed fulfill Dr. King’s powerful statement, “Be judged by the quality of your character.”
As you go forward this year, take time to step back and reflect on this question, “What actions can I take to be a more successful leader in my world?” The need for leadership has never been greater. The opportunities for making a difference, and touching all around you with strong core values has never been greater. The key is finding within yourself, the ethical moral courage to stand up and be an individual of character. This is difficult. This is challenging. This is exhausting. This can be frustrating.
Being true to yourself, living your values every day, frees you as a leader to be “Judged by the quality of your character.”