When it comes down to it, the only thing that any of us have is our word. We are either seen as a person who (most of the time at least) keeps our word, or a person who does not. People constantly assess to determine if each of us is a person who says what is meant, and means what is said. Youth are particularly interested in this question as they learn how to navigate in the very complex world in which they live. Nearly from birth, youth are determining if you are a person they can trust. Youth are interested in knowing about your character. Do you have integrity? Do you respond in the same manner when times are tough as well as when times are good? Do you speak the truth, even when it would be more convenient not to? Do you have a good intent? Do you motivate others to do THEIR best work, or do you manipulate them to do YOUR best work.
Youth are also looking to see how you measure up on these character traits as well:
• Positive Attitude
Character Counts shortens this list, identifying six pillars of character: trustworthiness, responsibility, respect, fairness, caring, and citizenship.
Stephen Covey tells us that until about 150 years ago, leadership was defined in terms of character, but that today, it has been redefined by the personality ethic. In other words, leadership was defined by an integration of such traits as integrity, humility, patience, and following the Golden Rule, while now, leadership is based on personality, technique, appearance, and having a positive mental attitude. He goes on to say that character creates long-term lasting relationships that are there for the long haul, while the personality ethic has much less staying power. Emerson perhaps says it best, “What you are shouts so loudly in my ears I cannot hear what you say.”
As we move forward in our work with young people, let’s remember that one of our most important roles is that of role model, and that character truly is what coun