When I met with the senior leadership team of one of our clients recently, the CEO asked me for my thoughts on an issue.
He had been asked by a friend if he’d write a letter of encouragement and career advice to his son, a graduating high school student. For students on their way to university, the high school likes to gather letters from parents and their friends. Then they’re packaged as a graduating gift for the students—a good idea.
The CEO asked me what I would say if I were to write this one-page letter. I suggested the beginning of college was a perfect time to develop one’s character through challenging opportunities: lying, cheating, taking advantage of someone, excessive partying, to name a few.
I would offer a student this practical list of advice:
- Be genuine and sincere.
- Do what you say you’ll do.
- Help those who need help.
- Treat all people with respect.
- Do the right thing for the right reason.
- Be the friend everyone wants to have.
- Don’t be in a video gone viral because of a foolish act.
- Most of all, stay out of jail.
Your character is the core of who you are as a leader. Develop your core early and maintain it always.
A good reminder is this verse by the ancient Chinese philosopher, Lao Tzu:
Watch your thoughts, they become your words;
Watch your words, they become your actions;
Watch your actions, they become your habits;
Watch your habits, they become your character;
Watch your character, it becomes your destiny.
As leaders, it is incumbent on us to share our experiences and offer suggestions to the next generation so they can be better leaders than ever.