Group photo from the C2C in Rye, NY on May 16, 2019

A group of Wake Foresters gathered over dinner in Rye, NY on May 16, 2019 to discuss Leadership & Character.

Overview and highlights of our Call to Conversation:

  • A consistent theme that weaved through the conversation was the idea of service leadership – serving something larger than yourself. On the question of when do leadership and character overlap, the group agreed that individuals committing themselves to a larger purpose most often lead with character.
  • We were all enriched by the stories of character shown and the people whom displayed it. Everyone at the table shared personal examples of character by telling stories of individuals including: kids among us doing the right thing by foregoing judgment and demonstrating inclusiveness; people in positions of power treating people without power with a spirit of human equality, care and desire to know them — and serving them when moment of crisis arises.

Other Important themes and special notes we shared:

  • Small things matter – seeds for character are sown with small, everyday action — what we do when no one’s looking matters. People are looking to be inspired from large actions and examples; but everyday life offers opportunities to demonstrate character (courage) and are vital to building a societal norm and expectation.
  • Taking ownership and accountability are markers of character.
  • Our myth of “leadership purity” is being shattered by the constant spotlight of social media — constant examination of every human move of leaders makes the prospect of leading daunting and unforgiving.
  • Doing the right thing in the face of adversity or risk is at the heart of character — sacrifice, courage and respect for others.
  • A few of us mentioned that the intent behind leadership defines character — what people do with power is at the heart of character. Releasing power, acting with empathy and compassion; acting with honesty and integrity when one could take an easier route in a difficult situation; and the ability to inspire others to acts of good were all features of character- focused leadership discussed.
  • Finally, we closed the evening when asked what we might offer to the next generation of Wake students whom we hope will carry forward the Pro Humanitate value of character and leadership. Things offered: Be conscious of the example you set; set space for this kind of exchange and sharing; Put your phones down and be present!; it’s important to stay open; remember that it’s the journey — there’s no destination; appreciate the human connections of Wake Forest; the legacy of your life are the values you pass on.