I remember in the late 1990’s sitting in a waiting room at a dentist’s office, reading a magazine article about an incredible Houston based Energy Company called Enron.
I was astounded by the numbers this company was putting up, and some of its foundational ethical principles made a profound impression on me.
Enron possessed an ethics code, citing respect, integrity, communication, and excellence, promising to “raise the bar” for everyone.
Respect We treat others as we would like to be treated ourselves…
Integrity We work with customers and prospects openly, honestly and sincerely…
Communication We have an obligation to communicate…
Excellence We are satisfied with nothing less than the very best in everything we do...1
Within their handbook the CEO stated: “We want to be proud of Enron and to know that it enjoys a reputation for fairness and honesty and that it is respected.”
So how could a company with stated ethics as these go from their reported revenues of more than $100 billion during 2001 to declaring bankruptcy by the end of that same year?
The great tragedy of the nation’s 6th largest company at one time was its collapse, which affected more than 20,000 employees. Their stock which at one time valued at $90.00 a share plummeted to little more than 50 cents in a relatively short time.
You can search the internet and read about this epic scandal, catastrophic collapse, and the numerous articles commenting on the court case and its outcome. When you consider the charges of fraud, conspiracy, and insider trading, you get the picture that good character wasn’t king among many executives at Enron.
Personality and Character
We live in a society that is guided largely by emotions and self-serving desires. We have a culture making decisions and judgments about people based mostly on personality. Unfortunately this is a very shallow and unstable way to live. When we form opinions and make decisions based on how we feel, we will live a life given to change. We will also tend to be offended with everyone who disagrees with how we see things.
Personality forms our first impression; it’s an easy read because it lies on the surface. We tend to gravitate toward people who display a degree of confidence, their sociable, and may have a sense of humor. If they’re good listeners and easy to talk to, we may get the impression we can trust them. We mistakenly view these personality traits as character traits, which reside at our core, hidden from view.
This is why the general public can so quickly turn against and hate an elected official with the same passion they used to love them with when they voted for them. No need to know the facts, how they’re feeling at the moment the bad news makes its first impression on them, justifies everything.
Why is Character So Important?
Character rests on our beliefs, and is formed in the heart. If we don’t believe we should help others – we won’t. If placing ourselves first at all cost is something we believe in, we will behave that way, and lack integrity with others. We truly connect with others at a heart level not at the personality level. The cause of corporate scandals is character failure.
“As a leader, if you keep building on personality, gifts, and talents, instead of good character to lead your people, you will always end up being manipulative.” - JSP
I’m sure we’ve all met people who we really liked, and at the same time we had an inner warning to be careful around them. This happened because there was no connection on a deeper level. The law of connection states “Leaders will touch a heart before they ask for a hand.” Making a heart connection takes good character resting on good values.
Character defines us; it’s who we really are. Moral qualities such as honesty, loyalty, self-discipline, and perseverance, influence how we think feel and behave. Growth in good character is called maturity. We all know that genuine maturity takes time. We must take time getting to know someone. In the long run our character (good or bad) begins to emerge and we become known for who we really are.
When we build our lives on traits such as honesty, self-discipline, and perseverance, guided by the golden rule “treat others as you wish to be treated yourself,” you and those who do business with you will be standing on solid ground.
Remember, in all things and all situations Character is King!
1 Ethics code was condensed to conserve space in this article.
*** This article was authored by John Picarello, Chief Leadership Officer at Lions Pride Leadership Co.***