“Character – the mental and moral qualities distinctive to an individual”
I recently made the opening speech at an education conference, the theme of which was building character in young people. I was asked to reflect back on my time when I joined the Royal Air Force as a young cadet.
The RAF, along with the other Armed Services would all agree that building character was an essential part the recruitment, selection and training process; the recruiters would say that they selected based on character; that their selection tests were designed to ‘weed out’ those that lacked the required character. The instructors who made our lives a misery would say that their physically demanding exercises built character.
But then I remembered that this time last year I was lucky enough to be in New Orleans for the New Orleans Entrepreneurs Week (http://noew.org). Whilst there I attended a seminar entitled ‘The characteristics of an entrepreneur’. The speaker talked about the characteristics that made successful entrepreneurs, such as integrity, determination, loyalty, resilience, willingness to adapt and finally a passion and the vision to succeed. She went on to say that by overcoming any obstacle, issue, rejection or failure because of their passion and the vision to succeed developed all the other characteristics of an entrepreneur.
And as I once again reflected back to my days as young RAF cadet, I realised that my character was neither selected by the recruiters nor built by the trainers. Instead by focusing on the end result – flying an aeroplane I was willing to overcome any obstacle or hurdle and I developed my own strength of character.
So perhaps before we try to develop successful educational programmes that build character in young people, or leadership and management programmes designed to develop the character of our staff and employees we should first develop their passion and vision.
For young people this may mean understanding and evolving their vision of what they wish to ultimately achieve. Giving them the confidence and sense of pride to recognise that everything that is thrown in their way is merely to test their resoluteness to achieve their goals in life.
Do your staff and employees have a passion and enthusiasm for their company, product or service? What is in it for them? Do you know what drives them? What are their ambitions and goals? Only by understanding what ‘drives’ them in life will you be able to support them in developing their strength of character that underpins all high performing teams.
And finally for entrepreneurs, is your passion and enthusiasm for your business so great that nothing will stop you achieving your goals? If so then you are without doubt developing all the characteristics of a successful entrepreneur.