SWO Angel Group

Character Matters Lunch ‘n Learn Highlights

February 23, 2018

Author: Dennis Ensing

Yesterday, we had a very compelling presentation from Dr. Crossan summarizing her and her colleagues’ research “Character matters: Character dimensions’ impact on leader performance and outcomes”.

Our interest in this topic stems from the importance we place on the founder of a particular venture in which we are evaluating a possible investment into his/her team. The importance of the “quality” of the team can represent 60-80% of the entire ultimate decision of whether to invest – or not.

The challenge we have is how to define “quality”. Generally we consider all the elements that Dr. Crossan identifies – competence, commitment, and character – but readily admit it is principally a subjective assessment made based on many hours of interaction and due diligence.

Dr. Crossan and her colleagues acknowledge this early in the article we read prior to the session:

“While leaders readily agree that ‘character matters’, they also report that they seldom refer to it, talk about it, or use it in recruiting, selecting, promoting or developing leaders, although it does surface more often when it comes to firing them! Based on our research, we attribute the gap between the perceived importance and the actual use of character to three things. First, there is a great deal of ambiguity about what is meant by the word ‘character’, which of its dimensions are most important in organizational leadership, how character can be assessed, and what can be done to develop character in today’s and tomorrow’s leaders. Second, leaders tell us that what they need is a contemporary, practice-focused vocabulary with which to address character. This vocabulary must be expressed in the language used today in their organizations. Third, there are few reliable and valid tools available for the systematic assessment of character.”[1]

During her session with us, she briefly addressed all three of these, with interesting examples. Character, she said, is a “habit of being”. Excellence of character is captured by a set of behaviours that directly influence the development of competence, the commitment to action and ultimately performance.

They use the following dimensions to describe and assess character: Drive, Accountability, Collaboration, Humanity, Humility, Temperance, Justice, Courage, Transcendence, Integrity, and Judgment. As this post is intended as a summary, I don’t have space to describe each of these further, but can provide a copy of the article to anyone interested – please email me. Also, members of our group were given the opportunity to take an assessment that reported to them where they stood on these dimensions.

A couple of other interesting observations about the impact of Character:

  • Character and competence work together
  • Character based judgment is a critical ingredient in leader success
  • Character is a source of sustainable competitive advantage

Going forward, we plan to introduce character-based interview questions, and possibly entrepreneur assessments, more deliberately into our screening and due diligence. At a minimum, Dr. Crossan has given us vocabulary to use as a common platform of describing the nature of the people in which we consider making an investment.

  • “Character matters: Character dimensions’ impact on leader performance and outcomes”, Gerard Seijts, Jeffrey Gandz, Mary Crossan, Mark Reno, Ivey Business School, Western University, 1255 Western Road London, Ontario, Canada