inCorporated Character

I have been struck by concept over the past few weeks, and it has been growing in clarity and conviction for me: the importance of Corporate Character.

I am a self-declared values-based leader, and I have advocated long and hard in relation to the impacts of corporate culture. I have debated along with others about the merits of culture versus strategy – as if either of the two could ever stand on their own.

Character can be defined as: The combination of mental characteristics and behaviour that distinguishes a person or group…moral strength, integrity…a structure, function, or attribute of an organism, influenced by genetic,environmental, and developmental factors.

Given that a corporation is a composite of the organic individual stakeholders connected with it, it is reasonable to consider the corporation to be an organism. This perspective challenges many traditional perspectives related to life in business – it would never be “just business”, and it would be important to consider the needs of all stakeholders, not myopically rank the highest possible return to shareholders above all – or even rate the customer as the lone focus – but to consider that a corporation exists to the benefit of all: shareholder, customer, employer, supplier, neighbouring community…and more.

“Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved.” Helen Keller

Consider this quote in relation to quotes by my favourite corporate culture expert, Edgar Schein:

A pattern of shared basic assumptions learned by a group as it solved its problems of external adaptation and internal integration…A product of joint learning.”

Culture Paradigm: …where the focus is on development rather than on a static condition. It is more on what the person is and can become rather than what the person can accomplish. This human related dimension is critical in making the organization safe for all.”

A holistic view of the  inCorporation as having Character would open our eyes to see the cross-woven web of interdependent individuals and factors that contribute to the resilience of the connected whole: the individual, the corporation, community, region and planet.

Of course, we can ignore character, personally and/or corporately, but truth proves out – we will inherit the consequences of this decision.

What difference would a focus on character do for you? Think in terms of the attributes of well-formed character: integrity, honesty, accountability, selflessness, loyalty, self-control…