Strengthening Character Is Not Just A Moral Imperative !!!

The Wall Street Journal article “Ballet Dancer Gets Six-Year Sentence for Bolshoi Attack” should fill anyone with the same kind of dismay and regret as did the stories of Governor Mark Sanford or German billionaire Adof Merckle did. Pavel Dmitrichenko, a long-serving Bolshoi soloist with high-profile roles such as Ivan the Terrible and the evil sorcerer in "Swan Lake," was sentenced to six years in prison for ordering an acid attack on the artistic director Sergei Filin who in turn, was blinded in the attack. Such great talents… the Bolshoi Ballet being one of the world's most renowned theaters, all ruined, and their lives scarred irrevocably. It could have been prevented, as can be many such incidents, where lives are damaged, had the prime players had a strong grip on principles of justice, equality and self-control. This story made me think of the inspiring conversation I had with Jack London, the Executive Chairman of CACI and author of the book Character: The Ultimate Success Factor. We discussed about character not only as an exalted virtue but as a critical requirement for living a truly successful life.  Character is not just something to aspire to but something to strengthen in order to master the art of living.

Going back to the Bolshoi attack story. It seems from the Wall Street Journal article that some of Filin’s actions were grossly unfair and smacked of jealousy and personal insecurity which caused acrimony between him and Dmitrichenko that ultimately led to this macabre incident. It’s highly possible that had Filin’s behavior been guided by fairness then even if some of his decisions had gone against Dmitrichenko he would have understood and not reacted in such a tragic manner.

People respect strong character. If your actions are guided by principles of a strong character, if your behavior and decisions are not driven by your personal likes and dislikes but by an all encompassing sense of right and wrong, then even if they are not favorable to certain people, they would understand and accept that eventually and may even respect you for it. There are people who have been fired from jobs but continue to maintain good relations with their bosses because they understand that the reasons for their firing stood on substantial ground rather than petty politics. But when the boss’s decisions are whimsical and self-centered rather than principle-centered then it can be very hard to accept the terrible pain that comes from injustice and unfairness.

This is important because as business leaders you are often intruding into other people’s lives and how you behave affects those people and the people around them. So it’s important for leaders to recognize that they are influencing people’s everyday living and they can’t do that whimsically. They need to rise above themselves and follow a principle-centered life. If you are not convinced, you are not interested in the larger good then at least you should do it to protect your own self. Why behave in ways that could mess other people’s lives and make you vulnerable to their anger? Now such situations are rare, but so is death in a car accident, yet we take care to follow the traffic rules. Don’t we? Character is not just important for invisible intangible reasons that are not easy to understand, it is important for our everyday living as it influences how we live and how we will continue to live.