“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character,” said Martin Luther King Jr., in one of his most famous speeches.
Character is what’s deep inside each of us, it’s who we are on a daily basis, it’s who we are when things go well and more importantly, when things go wrong. It’s who we are when we’re in leadership positions, as well as with the family in our living rooms. Character is our moral and ethical strength; it is who we are when no one is looking. Character is a mix of traits that are distinct to each person and baked into that person’s life. It’s much more than just what we try to display for others to see, good character is doing the right thing because it is right to do so.
For those of us who serve in the military, we are and should be held to a higher standard than the general public. We are servants of our country and our bond to those we serve is tied to our reputations and inevitably, to the character that reputation is built upon. Reputation is a long-term display of good character traits and we enhance that display, by making our character traits consistent by living our morals and ethics every day.
We must model good character for ourselves, our families and our service organizations daily. When promises are made, no matter how small, they must be kept. Be a great example, be known as a promise keeper. Never take shortcuts, communicate the importance of quality to your team and make sure that in times of stress, the importance of delivering quality is not lessened. Stay consistent when you deal with others. Treat everyone with respect, regardless of how long the day has been or the number of setbacks created by people in the organization that “just don’t get it.”
Finally, always self-audit. At the end of the day, week and month, review your decisions for bias and consistency against the character goals you’re striving to achieve. Every action reflects on your character, as Whorton says, “no matter how small.” Make sure your reflection is in line with who you are.
Editor’s note: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Air Force, Defense Department or the U.S. government.