Oh honestly!

Written By: Fiona - Sep• 11•13

Prior to Australia’s national election held on September 7, 2013, I conducted a brief survey about the desired character strengths in a leader, and what character strengths we perceived our two main candidates to possess.

Well the survey results are in:

What we want mostly in a leader of our nation are the character strengths of:

Honesty/Integrity (75%)
Leadership (63%)
Teamwork (50%)
Perspective (49%)
Judgement/Critical Thinking (47%).

However, what we want and what we think we are getting are two very different things indeed.

The survey showed that the perceived top strengths of Tony Abbott were, in ranked order:

Perseverance (60%)
Spirituality (52%)
Leadership (47%)
Bravery (40%)
Teamwork (38%)

And for Kevin Rudd:

Perseverance (70%)
Zest/Enthusiasm (56%)
Hope (42%) & Leadership (42%)
Humour (36%) & Bravery (36%)

I could comment and analyse these results until the cows come home (which begs the question: Where do the cows go?), but it’s not my job to do that. It’s my job to get us thinking about what our own and others’ character strengths are, and more significantly, the character strengths of our children.

So: who, in your children’s life is a paragon of leadership? Do they emulate character strengths that you admire in a leader and that you aspire for your child to live out of?

And given honesty and integrity are qualities we most strongly desire in our political leaders, how honest and integral are you in yours and your children’s life?

Seligman and Peterson (2004) define this Character Strength as follows:

“Integrity, authenticity, and honesty capture a character trait in which people are true to themselves, accurately representing – privately and publicly – their internal states, intentions, and commitments.” (p250)

Or as I put it: ‘Being who you say you are, and doing what you say you’ll do when you say you’ll do it.’

I’ve always liked the question: ‘Where’s your integrity in this?’ It’s a question I ask myself if I hesitate in not fessing up to being undercharged or not being up front in declining an invitation. Gets me every time and stops me in my tracks, reminding me of my personal standing of integrity: to be in integrity not only with myself, but also with others.

Nobody’s perfect – and nor should we expect ourselves to be – and giving ourselves ‘permission to be human’ gives us permission to be just that. That being said, living an authentic, honest life of integrity is a character strength we must all learn to access, whether it be your top or lower strength – for the sake of our children. Or, if you are a political leader, for the sake of our nation.

Just like Luka Bloom sings: “Wherever you go, there you are.” You cannot escape yourself.



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  1. steve says:

    I wish for a leader with those character strengths.

    Unfortunately politics doesn’t generally attract or engage these types of people. They exist, but they are often involved in our pursuits.

    Who are these people? What do they do?

    To start the ball rolling, I’ll nominate Steve Waugh. Former Australian cricket captain and now doing great charity work, particularly in India. Under his guidance, his cricket team and now his charity did amazing things.

    Anyone else?

  2. steve says:

    Edit on my last post…”our pursuits” should read “other pursuits”

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