Although the Toronto Blue Jays didn't go all the way this year, they clearly didn't lack character. Character, of course, is a loaded word. Like competencies and commitment, we know it is essential for individual, team and organizational success. But what exactly is character? And what about it leads to success?
The essence of good risk management is asking appropriate questions and getting truthful answers. And so, if a CEO doesn't make it clear that he expects unethical behaviour to be outed by managers asking tough questions, then it probably won't be outed. This clearly didn't happen at Volkswagen.
It is generally assumed that aversion to risk is one of the biggest obstacles to Canadian innovation, but only 10 per cent of Canadian businesses are truly risk averse. The big issue is apparently an inability to align risk-taking with financial capacity -- rational risk-taking obviously involves being able to survive the potential negative consequences of your actions. And that's a key lesson buried in the aftermath of the hacker attack on the controversial Ashley Madison online affair service.
Talent and commitment are important. But when assessing employees or potential employees, it is also critical to determine if they have the character required to be a good employee and strive to be an even better one. Overlooking bad behaviour is easy, especially when it involves top performers. But leadership is not supposed to be easy. With all due respect to anyone victimized in this case, this incident serves as a stark reminder of the risks that stem from ignoring character in the workplace.
Tim Leiweke, president of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, recently made headlines by noting that hiring pro athletes with off-the-charts talent makes no sense if the players in question have terrible character. As far as he is concerned, ignoring character is a good way to ensure you are "doomed" to fail. He is right, and he didn't make his comments to score points.
Why partner with the military? One of the foundations of good leadership is the ability to accomplish a task by influencing other people. To do that, however, a leader must be able to assess a situation, develop a plan, issue clear instructions and then supervise execution.
There is also ample anecdotal evidence that niceness and excellence can co-exist. The careers of Wayne Gretzky in sport, Chris Hadfield in science and Arlene Dickinson in business are good examples. So does being nice really mean you will finish last?