“In Return on Character, Fred Kiel has put numbers to the notion that good leadership aimed at promoting the common good, not just individual, winner-take-all acquisition can be good business.
In a seven year study of 121 CEOs they found that highly principled CEOs—Virtuoso CEOs—achieved nearly five times the return on assets that leaders whose character scores were the lowest—Self-Focused CEOs—in the study. Also encouraging is the fact that people demonstrate character through habitual behaviors and therefore anyone can learn habits of good character an unlearn habits of poor character.
Character is defined in this study as ‘an individual’s unique combination of internalized beliefs and moral habits that motivate and shape how that individual relates to others.’ Our character is what we believe. Despite what we say. Our leadership is what we what we do for (or to) others as a result of what we believe.
To assess character traits Kiel defined four keystone characters traits that supported that definition: integrity (telling the truth, acting consistently), responsibility (admitting mistakes, concern for common good), forgiveness (letting go of mistakes of others and ourselves, focusing on what’s right) and compassion(empathizing with and empowering others, caring for others, committed to others’ development).
Not surprisingly, self-awareness is a key issue in character development. The Virtuoso leaders rated themselves quite accurately. However, the Self-Focused leaders rated themselves as high as the Virtuoso leaders. Clearly, we have issues seeing ourselves as we are.”