Character: The Core Value that speaks the loudest!

“When you are commanding, leading [soldiers] under conditions where physical exhaustion and privations must be ignored, where the lives of [soldiers] may be sacrificed, then, the efficiency of your leadership will depend only to a minor degree on your tactical ability. It will primarily be determined by your character, your reputation, not much for courage—which will be accepted as a matter of course—but by the previous reputation you have established for fairness, for that high-minded patriotic purpose, that quality of unswerving determination to carry through any military task assigned to you.” – General George C. Marshall, Speaking to officer candidates in September 1941

One of my favorite leaders that I served under in the United States Army once told me, “Have character, Specialist Jester, don’t BE a character!” As I have grown as a leader, I like to use these same words with those that I mentor. Many leaders that I have spoken with over the years have stated that strong moral character is one of the top traits they value most in people. I could not agree more! The United States Army holds character as arguably the top core value of leadership. This is evidenced in every chapter of The U.S. Army Leadership Field Manual, FM 22-100 which defines character as follows:

“Character describes a person’s inner strength, the BE of BE, KNOW, DO. Your character helps you know what is right; more than that, it links the knowledge to action. Character gives you the courage to do what is right regardless of the circumstances or the consequences.” (Army Field Manual FM 22-100, 2007)

If character truly describes a person’s inner strength, then the prophet, Daniel exemplified this in every aspect of his life. Daniel refused to compromise and defile himself by eating unclean as his diet consisted of only vegetables. When Daniel interpreted King Nebuchadnezzar’s dream that none of the wise men of Baylon could understand, Daniel did not take credit. Instead, Daniel gave glory and honor to God. He always spoke truth to authority whether it was popular, no matter the consequences. Daniel never stopped praying even though he knew that it could cost him his life. Finally, even as his favor with the king grew, Daniel remained committed and loyal to his friends and beliefs. (Daniel 2:1-48)

“What you are stands over you the while, and thunders so that I cannot hear what you say to the contrary” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

There are also valuable cautionary tales of bad moral character in the Bible. The egotistical King Herod Agrippa I is the prime example of a leader who severely lacked character. Imprisoning Jews only to harass them and executing James by the sword even though he had committed no crime are just two examples of Herod Agrippa’s cruelty. He also enjoyed flaunting his power and position as king by wearing lavish, expensive clothing to garner praise all the while mistreating the very people he was determined to gain worship from. Unfortunately for Herod, he failed to recognize that his ego and arrogance greatly undermined his leadership.

Whether good or bad, Character is at the heart of leadership. I find that leaders who possess good moral character have what we we call, “that thing!” They have what it takes to be a successful leader. Leaders with bad moral character, or none at all are much less successful. It is hard to follow a leader who has bad character.

How do we keep from falling prey to the same bad character traits as Herod on our leadership journey? By always being humble and trainable. Identify and face your weaknesses with honesty. Then surround yourself with people of strong moral character with the strengths that you need. Role models and mentors as accountability partners are an invaluable resource as they can speak hard truths into the life of a leader that others cannot.

Be willing to listen to what followers are saying with their actions or inactions toward you. These speak loudly about your own character.


Integrity: The Foundational Leadership Core Value

All people have values. You cannot be human or have a soul without them. At the heart of all people is where Core Values can be found. These are deep-seated values that no one needs to tell you about, can take away from you, or change your mind on. Core values define who we are! At the heart of leadership are core values that all leaders identify with. These core values cross every demographic, culture, industry, and profession. Core values stand alone!

Over the next several weeks, I will identify and explore the Core Values of Leadership and show how each of them plays a critical role in the life of a leader and those who follow. Today, I begin with what I consider to be the foundational core value of leadership, Integrity.

As a person who is educated in law, I am a firm believer that words have meaning and consequences. The meaning of a word is vital to understanding its usage in any language. Words have consequences based upon their usage. Words assign attributes to persons, places, and things. Words also provide context to dialog. Therefore, I always like to define words when they are the subject of my dialog by turning to various lexicons such as, among other things legal and modern English usage dictionaries.

You may find it interesting that the only legal authority I have found containing a reference to the word, Integrity says, “See honesty.” The good news is that in Garner’s Dictionary of Legal Usage, Third Edition under honesty, the proper legal usage of integrity is defined as follows:

Integrity denotes incorruptible morality and insistence on meeting not only one’s commitments but also one’s personal standards of conduct.” (Garner & Garner, Garner’s Dictionary of Legal Usage 2011)

While there are other dictionaries that define integrity, I believe that Garner’s definition is perfectly on point.

Army Field Manual FM 22-100: The U.S. Army Leadership Field Manual says that leaders who demonstrate integrity: do what is right legally and morally; possess high personal moral standards; are honest in word and deed; show consistently good moral judgment and behavior; and, put being right ahead of being popular.

Integrity is about doing what is right when no one is watching. It is also about doing what is right even when it is hard to do so, or when society might understand not doing what is necessarily the right thing.

A great example of integrity comes from the Bible with Philemon and how he handled Paul’s request. (If you have not read the Bible, allow me to preface this by saying that back in time when the history recorded in the Bible was being lived out, slavery was commonplace.) Philemon had a bondservant named Onesimus who had fled from Philemon and found Paul, who was imprisoned for spreading the Gospel of Christ. While with Paul, Onesimus accepted Christ as his personal savior and was then accepted by Paul as a brother in Christ. Paul wrote a letter to Philemon explaining Onesimus’s conversion to Christianity, pleading with Philemon to forgive Onesimus for his trespass and to accept him (Onesimus) back, not as a bondservant but as a brother. Paul could have commanded Philemon by the authority of Christ to do this. But, Paul lovingly asked this of him. Now, keep in mind that Philemon had every right to disregard Paul’s request with righteous indignation by societal standards of the time. However, history records that Philemon accepted Onesimus back and embraced him as a brother in Christ.

Imagine how difficult it is to do what is right when someone has wronged you! Even when you know that society would not blame you for acting otherwise. Philemon’s integrity was on full display, doing what was right even when it was extremely difficult to do.

How does this apply to modern American society? Certainly, things have changed in modern times to the point that integrity, even when it is difficult is considered passe, right? Not so fast, my friends!

John Glenn was a United States Senator from Ohio, who was also a United States Marine Corps pilot before becoming a NASA Mercury and Space Shuttle Astronaut. All through his career, John Glenn was well known and respected for being a man of high integrity in everything he did. He was a faithful husband to his wife, Annie Castor to whom he was married for 73-years until his death in 2016. While this is a very good example from his personal life, John Glenn showed great integrity when it was difficult as a US Senator.

One of Senator Glenn’s assistant’s told a story of a situation that occurred on the floor of the Senate when a “very old senator” that was, I will say in cognitive decline took issue with a position Senator Glenn had taken on legislation introduced in the Armed Services Committee. This elderly statesman commenced “chewing out” Senator Glenn on the Senate floor. About an hour later, the same Senator called to ask for a favor and Senator Glenn accommodated him. According to the Senator’s assistant, who was incredulous about the request, Senator Glenn said that the elderly Senator, “…no longer remembered the chewing out, and it did no harm to help him on the matter at hand.” (Remembering John Glenn, lawmaker 2019)

Integrity is the solid ground upon which a life of leadership is built. With integrity, a leader can stand firm against the crashing waves that rise up in any situation. It keeps a leader firmly grounded in what is right at all times! Without integrity, a leader might as well build upon the sand by the sea. A leader without integrity will find their standing with those who follow washed away by the tides that inevitably come in life.

The Core Values of Leadership stand alone. One does not require the others to exist or operate in the life of a leader, but they complement each other. If integrity is the foundation of leadership, then build upon it using the other core values to grow and expand your leadership influence!

Where do we start? Oh right, from the beginning!

“True Grit is making a decision and standing by it, doing what must be done. No moral man can have peace of mind if he leaves undone what he knows he should have done.”

John Wayne

Many people think of the beginning of their lives as they day they were physically born into this world. Just as many people think of the beginning of their lives as the day they gave their lives to Christ. Truthfully, I agree with both mindsets. When I speak of the beginning today, I am referring to my life in pursuit of the what gives my life meaning and makes me put my feet on the floor in the morning. The pursuit of the law!

Shortly after I began dating my wife, I decided to return to school with the plan of completing a degree in Electronics Engineering. At that time, I believed that it would be a good choice, as I enjoyed working on electronics. However, it didn’t take me long to realize I was not on the path that God built me to go down. I found very quickly that, while I could do the work very well my passion for it was limited.

My fiancé (now wife) could tell that I was not happy studying for my engineering degree but supported my decision to finish what I started. She asked me one day after church, “What is it that you really want to do, if you could do anything at all?” It didn’t take me long to admit to her that I really wanted to go to law school. I expected a laugh or a snicker. To my amazement, she looked me in the eye and said, “Then that’s it! You are going to law school!” It took ten years to finally get there, but get there I did!

Keep in mind that I was not a young man when I began law school! I went to Southern University Law Center in their evening part-time program. I have a wife and a young child and was working up to 60 hours per week while attending school. From 2014 through 2018, I dedicated my life to completing the task of earning my Juris Doctor while never once neglecting my family or my employer. My friends and colleagues say to me, “I don’t know how you were able to do all of that!” My answer is simple, “God and Grit!”

The John Wayne quote at the beginning of this writing rings absolutely true in my heart! I made the decision to go to law school with the unwavering support of my wife. I knew my decision was something that I had to do, or I would always wonder, “What if?” I believe that God placed this desire in my heart and gave me the courage to follow it! With that courage came one of the most important elements that I have chosen to define my life by: GRIT! I choose to have enough grit to take on any challenge and see it through, leaving nothing undone! When I wake up in the morning and my feet hit the floor, I want the enemy to tremble knowing that I am awake and ready to grind!

Blue J Press was born out of inspiration that my sister-in-law, Michelle breathed into my life! The writings that will flow from this blog and other endeavors can be attributed to her and the works that she inspired me with! It is my hope and prayer that my writings will be interesting, enjoyable and inspirational! With that beginning,

Welcome to Blue J Press!