Great Leaders Do Character Development like this Kindergarten Class

Earlier today, I attended a kindergarten assembly where students were recognized for showing positive character traits. My daughter was recognized for showing Integrity and a few of her classmates were recognized for showing Curiosity, Open-mindedness, Perspective, and Creativity. Like any father, I was proud of my daughter and her classmates.

This assembly was the first of many, and part of a yearlong initiative called The Positivity Project. Over the course of the school year, students will learn to understand, appreciate, and exemplify 24 character strengths that exist in every person. This occurs through constant leader-led discussion, training, and development. The goal is to teach students to be self-aware of their character strengths, and those of others, in order to build strong relationships that will enhance their classroom and school community.

My daughter’s kindergarten class hit the mark on character development with a deliberate, transparent, and holistic approach. The same approach should apply in sports, higher education, and professional organizations.

Most organizations have traits that they value — Integrity, Commitment, Loyalty, and Respect, just to name a few. Typically, these words and phrases are posted in the hallway for everyone to see. But, how often do we openly discuss these valued traits, and to what degree? Some other questions to ask:

Can our team clearly define the character traits that are valued by our organization?
Does our team understand the importance of our values, principles, and character traits? Do teammates know how the traits relate to our purpose?
Can we identify behaviors that exemplify our valued character traits? Are these behaviors specific and contextual?
Do we recognize these behaviors and encourage them in everything that we do?

I guarantee that my daughter’s teachers answered yes to all of these questions. Can we say the same of our organizations?

Character development may start at home and in grade school, but it continues throughout a person’s life in sports, academia, and professionally. Character will manifest differently based on the environment, and the value of character traits will differ based on the team and organization. This is why character must continuously be learned, developed, and refined.

Talk more! What character traits are valued by your organization, and why?

Don’t just post words and phrases in the hallway, or hang motivational posters in the break room. We must deliberately talk about the traits we value, clearly identify behaviors that represent these traits, and recognize team members that exemplify them day in and day out.

As leaders, it is our duty to develop people of character. We owe this to our people, teams, organizations, and society.

Special thanks to The Positivity Project and everything they are doing for my daughter, her classmates, the school, my community, and our country.