Call to Conversation gathering in San Francisco on December 6, 2017.

A group of Wake Foresters gathered over dinner in San Francisco, CA on December 5, 2017, to discuss leadership and character.

Leadership and character are sometimes elusive, but everyone in our group had an interesting story to share about a time they saw leadership and character in action. Character can be exhibited by a family member, a community coming together after tragedy, an on-campus figure, someone in the public eye or even a stranger. We discussed at length character versus values: Is there a difference and, if so, what is the difference? Can you choose your values but are born with an innate character? Or are they both continuously developing? Some of the key words from the night included: commitment, work ethic, adversity, responsibility, courage, generosity and integrity.

We are living in an “ends justifies the means” society, with distinction between public and private personas. People talk about themselves as a brand, and many of us believe it is possible to have good character but act badly. Wake Forest students are experiencing nature versus nurture coming to life in college, and much of society has lost its thick skin ­– its “anti-fragility” – because children are being wrapped up. If we don’t admit our mistakes, how do we fix those mistakes? Is the concept of fairness and thinking long-term versus short-term becoming quaint?

We need to have diversity of thought in leadership, which can be developed and inspired through the art of conversation and civil discourse. It’s okay to drop an “adversity bomb” and proactively assume value in others. We need to train young people that art and the ability to see the humanity in others with differences.