In contemporary times — dubiously christened the ‘Covid19 era’ — ‘standard operating procedure’ in developing business relationships is characterized by a series of practices euphemistically referred to as ‘the ‘new normal.’ For example, what are called ‘interviews’ are conducted on-line and impersonally. It is not atypical for interviewer and applicant never to meet. Many today question whether they should return to their office environments or establish an independent new enterprise, making use of an exclusively virtual platform. In this context, it is relevant to emphasize that character remains the key to business success, even today.
In his book Crisis of Character: Building Corporate Reputation in the Age of Skepticism, Peter Firestein identifies character as continuing to be the defining element accounting for success or failure of individuals, executives, and companies. He specifies reputation as the key aspect of a CEO’s success in business. With “transparency” and “accountability” becoming so highly valued, companies can no longer hide questionable practices. NGOs, the media, shareholders, social activists, and even employees are all watching and reporting on practices any less than ethical.
As he lay on his hospital bed with terminal pancreatic cancer, Steve Jobs — founder of legendarily successful Apple, Inc. — had an interesting perspective on life and success. He stated that all his recognition and wealth were meaningless in the face of imminent death. He emphasized that we should not educate our children to be rich, but rather to be happy. His final persuasion was that priorities in human development should focus on character — not only external skills leading to wealth. Both Firestein and Jobs emphasize character as the central aspect of successful leadership.
Which should be the priority of business owners and managers — profit levels or the prosperity and benefit of both clients and staff?
Which is more important to either an individual or a business enterprise — to be ‘right’ or to be ethical? What is the difference?
How does personality differ from character? How is each best cultivated in both individual lives and corporate environments?
Please share your thoughts below.