Leadership and Character Learning Activity
Objective: Learning and applying the concepts of beliefs and values in leadership situations.
Time: About 40 minutes
1. Introduction: Gain the interest of the learners by starting with an interesting example that illustrates professional beliefs and values or the lack of them. For example, two leaders with high profiles that show a lack of values might be Presidents Clinton and Nixon. Although both held many outstanding values, they are often overshadowed by a lack of certain moral standards. While two leaders who displayed high values might be Mother Teresa, for her care of the poor, or Martin Luther King, for his stand for civil rights.
2. Define beliefs and values:
- Beliefs—assumptions or convictions that a person holds to be true regarding people, concepts, or things.
- Values—ideas about the worth or importance of people, concepts, or things. They come from a person's beliefs.
What we see, hear, read, reflect upon, experience, etc. causes us to develop an opinion (belief) about something. This belief gives us an understanding or misunderstanding, which in turn, allows us to appraise the worth of it (value). The value we place may not always be correct due to lies, misunderstanding, lack of experience, miscommunication, inappropriate role models, etc.
3. Discussion: On a flip chart or chalkboard, select a few traits, characteristics, and/or attributes (see Character and Traits for examples) that your organization believes important. Ask the learners for pros and cons on these values:
- Which ones do they believe are most valuable for the organization? Why?
- Would any of them be hard to uphold within the company? Why?
- Do they have any personal favorites that they believe the organization is lacking? Why?
- Should any of the values listed be removed? Why?
- Why are values important for an organization?
- What values are formal norms (official) and are there any informal norms (unwritten rules that govern behavior)?
- Should someone who showed a lack of a certain value be dismissed from the company? (Also discuss any that would cause a person to be punished and why)
- A value is a concept until tested under stress. Anyone can be ethical when there is no pressure to be unethical. Give some examples.
4. Break the group into small groups and have them discuss one or more of the following short stories. Have each group put their answers and comments on a flip chart. After they have discussed the stories, post all the flip charts in a central place and discuss the answers as a single group.
Short Character Stories
The 20th Maine marched over 100 miles in the 5 days before the Battle of Gettysburg. In fact, the night before the battle they marched all night to get there on time. They got very little rest, yet they fought ferociously due to the pride they had in their unit.
In recent modern day Army units, it is sometimes a common practice to haze or yell at the troops in an effort to cause artificial stress—the commander wants to “toughen up” the troops.
Which unit was really tough and why? What are some means of creating a tough unit?
After this lesson, you are given a multiple-choice exam. When you come to question five, you know that the answer is A or B, but can't decide which. You deliberate and finally choose A. You are sitting next to the hallway door, and when you are just about finished with the test, you hear one of your fellow classmates in the hallway remark, “Oh no, I thought for sure that the answer for question five was A,” which of course tells you that you choose the wrong answer. What do you do?
You are required to do a physical inventory of all the computer equipment by serial number. You do a quick count, and you have all the equipment you are supposed to have. You are extremely busy and since you have the required equipment, you wonder if you really need to check all the serial numbers?
You get a bonus every quarter if your production team meets its quota. You have made or exceeded quota every quarter. This quarter, due to a number of production equipment breaking down, you are falling short or your quota. Last quarter you far exceeded your quota. One of your peers (who also shares in the bonus plan), shows you that a few numbers could easily be moved from last quarter into this quarter in order to meet the quotas for both periods. He says it would only be fair since the equipment breakdown were no fault of the production team. What do you do?
Time Away From Work
Prior to your new manager, your department had one of the highest turnovers in the company. Many blamed this on the long hours that people were spending on the job. When your new manager took over, she called everyone in for a meeting and told them that she wanted everyone to use their vacation time, leave work at a reasonable hour, and spend some time with their family. However, since coming on, she has rarely taken a day off, arrives for work at 7:00 A.M. and almost never leaves the office until after 7:00 P.M. The department still has one of the highest turnover rates in the company.
Why does her behavior, not her words create the impression that others should do likewise? As a senior supervisor, what should you do?
This page is activity for Character and Traits in Leadership
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