The last two-plus years have shown the worst in politics. Character is unimportant, as long as tax cuts and judges are approved. Leaders usually try to bring the best out of people, but the current president brings out the worst. The scariest part is so many are letting him do just that.

I am close to pulling the plug on Facebook. In many cases, it is a pile-on mentality. Some post flowery things, ignoring what reality is or sidestepping the ugliness that appears by what the president says and does. In other words, there is a deep silence. We seem to be in some weird place where nothing matters other than sticking it to other people or looking the other way during ethical crashes. Within this mix, our character gets mugged, and our integrity crumbles. Facebook may be a symptom, but it is also a contributor to our ethical demise.

There is no such thing as simpler times. However, there is such a thing as moral courage and decency. As a teenager, the rural plains of South Dakota embedded in me a sense of doing what was right, including helping those around us and those faraway who struggled with hunger, repression, and destruction. Today, the sense of doing what is right and being a good person is now secondary to supporting a politician who does the opposite.

How Can Good Communities Support Bad People?

The question that scares me the most is this. How can someone who has such bad character be elected as a leader of a good nation? The current president is trashing the character of our being, and too many are letting him do that for some sense of political expediency. We have come to a point where fear of losing an election is more important than the fear of losing our character.

Business leaders can survive bad character or bad judgments but not as often as in the past. Through shareholder actions, a board of directors, or customers, bad business leaders are removed. Unfortunately, too many leave with prize money in the form of exit packages, but they still leave. In our politics, fewer bad leaders are removed or leave on their own. In fact, some who have clearly violated principles of being an honorable person are re-elected (e.g., Rep. Steve King and Rep. Duncan Hunter). I don’t get it.

How Do We Get Tricked into Forgoing Ethics for Dogma?

How did we get tricked into forgoing ethics for dogma? Another scary question. Some of our values have gone crazy. Some think kneeling is disrespecting our flag while it is a nonviolent protest for racial equality (a value our flag represents). Some think degrading others is a value to use as a shield from people who think about a problem differently. Again, diversity of thought and solutions are what created our democracy. Values have become misguided dogma for some, and our freedoms cannot afford values to become dogma. Maintaining trust and preserving integrity are values we need to embrace daily.

How Fast Can We Put Millennials and Gen Z in Leadership Positions?

My hope is on the newer generations – Millennials and Generation Z – although they are unsettled in what is present in today’s world. In a recent Deloitte survey, the environment and climate change are top concerns with income inequality a second one. The next generations have proved to be effective in organizing for change and, in many ways, their style of leadership cannot happen fast enough. The older generations have proven to be curmudgeons. Most disappointingly, they seem to be deadset on leaving our society worse than they found it – a generational first. Millennials and Gen Z will have their hands full to correct the current direction, but I am confident in their focus on purpose. Their purpose-focus and ability to organize for change will be the difference-makers.

Can We Return to Moral Courage and Ethical Integrity Sooner Rather than Later?

While I still believe we are a country of good people, the current president has peeled it back to expose the unkind, indecent, and morally bankrupt side. Yes, this is the deplorable part of our society. It is the part that forgot how their ancestors emigrated here for a better life and future. They forgot the importance of character in our work, interactions, and life. They forgot how working for the future is hard but necessary. They forgot how others are an important part of why we tackle issues and solve problems. Good people need to prevail, and good character needs to rise as a societal necessity.

Maybe not all is lost on older generations, but we are at a tipping point. Millennials and Gen Z carry a weight being left behind. We need to encourage them, guide them, support them, and place them in positions to make a difference – sooner rather than later.

We should be diligent in ensuring bad people don’t lead good communities and organizations. We need to check our character and begin a renewal of integrity and trust. We need to find our moral courage again.

I am concerned if we will recover our character. Are you?


Photo by Emily Morter on Unsplash
Our character raises more questions than answers. We treat values as dogma and ditch trust and integrity in the process. Character matters.