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Lessons on the Value of CharacterShared from John Wooden to Ted LassoBy Irene Barath and Professor Gerard Seijts“ If you stayed around him long enough, you learned an awful lot about life and yourself and how to be good. You felt a responsibility to conduct yourself the way Coach would want you to behave if you were wearing one of those jerseys sitting on the bench, so you checked your behaviour each day that you were around him. Now, that’s power. That’s influence in all the right ways.1”-Dick Enberg, sportscaster and friend describing John WoodenAre character strengths the basis upon which a meaningful life can be built? Are there lessons police leaders can learn from the discussions and examples provided by two coaches, one who created a real legacy in the 1960s and another who created a fan-based legacy in the 2020s? If you are a fan of the award-winning show Ted Lasso, then your connection to the heartfelt soccer coach may relate to the life lessons and definition of success that form the foundation of Coach John Wooden’s life work.Wooden’s definition of success is “peace of mind, attained only through self-satisfaction in knowing you made the effort to do the best of which you are capable.”2The life work of John Wooden resulted in his Pyramid of Success, which is among the first items installed on the wall behind the desk of the fictional Coach Lasso. A significant part of Coach Wooden’s legacy relates to his unmatched winning record with the UCLA basketball dynasty. Although that record is amazing, his most significant legacy may be how he taught others the importance of character in building both professional and personal success.Wooden’s Pyramid of Success has two interconnected structures: the exterior character strengths supporting the interior foundational life skills for success, which have been described as the heart of the pyramid.3The character strengths he identified are sincerity, honesty, reliability, integrity, patience, ambition, adaptability, resourcefulness, fight and faith. The life skills for success are, firstly: industriousness, enthusiasm, friendship, loyalty and cooperation. Secondly: self-control, intentness, alertness and initiative. Thirdly: condition, team spirit and skill. Fourthly: poise and confidence, followed at the pinnacle by competitive greatness.How does the work of actor Jason Sudeikis as Ted Lasso reflect these life lessons, and is there any relevance to police leadership?Police Training Police training often focuses on the acquisition of skills and knowledge to undertake the complex responsibilities of the profession at various levels. To create consistency with the utilization of skills and knowledge, a third stabilizing element, understanding character strengths, should be incorporated into police training and education. To test this proposition with a senior team of criminal investigators in 2018 and 2019, the examination of character strengths was introduced into the skills- and knowledge-based curriculum of the Major Case Management course at the Ontario Police College. A half-day session utilized the work of Peterson and Seligman,4which identifies six virtues and 24 character strengths, the virtues being wisdom and knowledge, courage, humanity, justice, temperance and transcendence. Within the virtues, the strengths include creativity, curiosity, judgment, love of learning, perspective, bravery, perseverance, honesty, zest, love, kindness, social intelligence, teamwork, fairness, leadership, forgiveness, humility, prudence, self-regulation, gratitude, hope, humour, spirituality, appreciation of beauty and excellence.Each participant was an experienced investigator called upon to deal with serious criminal cases and, in many instances, was responsible for leading a team of detectives. They individually completed the VIA (Values in Action) character strengths survey. Participants were asked to reflect on their top five strengths and consider how those strengths were currently benefitting their professional and personal lives. For example, if the primary character strength is “Honesty” and the second-highest ranked is “Humour,” how might these be manifested in the work of a criminal investigator? If honesty and humour are in balance, the integrity of the investigative process and maintaining the team morale with appropriate levity are important professional benefits.Honesty and humour are also essential to building relationships by creating a foundation of trust, which in turn supports healthy personal and professional environments. In his book The Speed of Trust, Stephen M. R. Covey identifies four core strengths supporting relationship health: credibility, integrity, character and capabilities. These core strengths are operationalized by a fundamental competence to undertake tasks (p. 57), again reinforcing the necessity of both competence and character. A quote attributed to Warren Buffett states, “Trust is like the air we breathe. When it’s present, nobody really notices; when it’s absent, everybody notices.” If honesty is a primary character strength, then dishonest behaviour (undertaken or observed) creates distress and conflict.In addition to daily interactions, there is a long-term benefit from the work of experienced serious crime investigators and strength discussions. In research with The Gallup Organization, Marcus Buckingham identified the practical benefits of using “strength conversations” to develop the knowledge of character strengths for each person on the team, and then utilizing that information beyond the selection process to include the evaluation, development and promotion processes within any organization. The research identified the single most important driver of performance on a team as the members feeling as though their tasks allow them the opportunity to use their strengths – that is, doing what they do best each day.If the leaders of these criminal investigation teams move to a strategic strengths-based approach, the outcomes can differentiate good teams from great teams. Surely any police leader can look at the platoons within their circle of influence and objectively observe some teams performing much better than others in ways not explained by competence alone. The intention of exposing police leaders to an examination of their own strengths was to broaden their understanding of how they can develop themselves and their team members.Strength and Character Directing the focus onto strengths with the definitions of character in mind, this article examines the outcomes of the question posed by research conducted in 2020-2021 with police recruits at the Ontario Police College. In collaboration with Dr. Gerard Seijts from the Ian O. Ihnatowycz Institute for Leadership, Ivey Business School, University of Western Ontario in London, Ont., the College undertook research to examine if character strengths explain an individual’s motivation to lead, subjective well-being, engagement to learn and positive coping strategies. The Institute strives to integrate character development into its executive education programs. It aspires to three main goals: (1) elevate the importance of character to the same level as competence in leadership practices; (2) to be recognized as a global leader for research, teaching and outreach related to a leader’s character; and (3) to develop global leaders whose strength of character contributes to the flourishing of themselves and those whose lives they touch, personally and professionally.Extensive research conducted by professors Mary Crossan, Gerard Seijts, Jeffrey Gandz and their post-doctoral research students at the Ivey Business School led to the development of their Leader Character Framework. This framework outlines 11 key character dimensions: accountability, collaboration, courage, drive, humanity, humility, integrity, judgment, justice, temperance and transcendence. These dimensions are widely considered by both academics and business leaders to be the standard of virtuous leadership.5Utilizing the Framework, the research project was implemented over four intakes of approximately three months in duration, starting in September 2020 for a total of 409 data sets out of a possible 1,648 participants. Of the 409 participants, 266 self-identified as male and 143 self-identified as female, with an average age of 28.69 years. Initially, taking a high-level view of the results, the 11 leader character strengths in order from most frequent to least frequent are: integrity, accountability, humility, courage, collaboration, humanity, drive, justice, temperance, judgment and transcendence. In reflecting on these outcomes, Seijts indicated there was minimal variance between character strengths; he also noted that temperance – defined as being patient, calm, composed, self-controlled and prudent – was not the lowest on the list, which, based on his previous research, it is in many other organizations. This is an interesting finding perhaps related to the demands of police work and the rationale for those who seek out opportunities for public service.THE INTENTION OF EXPOSING POLICE LEADERS TO AN EXAMINATION OF THEIR OWN STRENGTHS WAS TO BROADEN THEIR UNDERSTANDING OF HOW THEY CAN DEVELOP THEMSELVES AND THEIR TEAM MEMBERS.If “character, in short, is a habit of being – aset of observable behaviours – anchored in a set of virtues, traits and values that offer an ethic of individual excellence, continual moral development and striving towards a common good,” then this definition leads us to the more substantial findings of this innovative research:• Character strengths are positively related to the motivation to lead, which can translate into an increased motivation to take on additional responsibility and the associated accountability, including the development of leadership skills.• Character strengths are positively related to subjective well-being, which can translate to emotional well-being and increased functionality: Increased engagement in the classroom is beneficially connected to both the motivation to lead and subjective well-being.• Character strengths are positively related to positive coping strategies – the increased utilization of active problem solving and problem reappraisal – as well as a decrease in less beneficial avoidance coping strategies.In short, “knowing and understanding how you are at your best gives you a reference point for how you want to show up as a leader, as a professional, as a family member, as a friend and as a person.”6The research project reported here provides an initial insight into benefits that can be obtained from the study and utilization of character strengths. A more detailed examination of the data is being prepared for academic publication. Police training at all stages of an officer’s career involves complex concepts, including knowledge of and competency in the application of the law, as well as skills for effective communication, building public trust and maintaining safety. Recommendations from previous private sector research by Seijts’ team and this new collaboration provide validation for blending the study and operationalization of character into all aspects of police training and education.Returning to the fictional Coach Lasso, what character strengths can we attribute to him using the identified character strengths that contribute to success? Perhaps his top five strengths would be humility, honesty/integrity, judgment, teamwork/collaboration and kindness/humanity. Business Professor Warren Bennis of the University of Southern California stated, “Successful leadership is not about being tough or soft, sensitive or assertive, but about a set of attributes. First and foremost is character.”7If this statement is true, then watching a new coach – even a fictional one – use his character strengths as he grows into a leadership role in challenging situations and under immense public scrutiny can provide a lesson for police leaders.Irene Barath became a full-time trainer and instructor at the Ontario Police College in Aylmer, Ont. [retired] after a 15-year policing career. With a master’s degree in HR, her responsibilities during the latter part of her career focused on her roles as A/Chief Instructor, Team Leader of Leadership in the Leadership Development Unit and Resilience, and as a Wellness Training Coordinator.Gerard Seijts is a professor of organizational behaviour at the Ivey Business School at the University of Western Ontario in London, Ont. He received his Ph.D. in organizational behaviour and human resource management from the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto.1Yaeger, Don. “Coach, Wisdom from the Life and Lessons of John Wooden.” Success Magazine,December 2016, success.com, p. 36. 2Yaeger, Don. “Coach, Wisdom from the Life and Lessons of JohnWooden.” Success Magazine, December 2016, success.com, p. 41. Wooden, John and Jamison, Steve. Wooden on Leadership. McGraw Hill, New York, 2005, p. 41. Peterson, Christopher and Seligman, Martin. Character Strengths and Virtues: A Handbook and Classification. New York, Oxford University Press, 2004. www.viacharacter.org. Crossan, M., Seijts, G. and Gandz, J. (2016). Developing Leadership Character. New York, NY: Routledge Publishing. www.ivey.uwo.ca/leadership/research-resources/leader-character-framework. Eblin, S. Overworked and Overwhelmed. Wiley Publishing, New York, 2014, p. 16. Wooden, John and Jamison, Steve. Wooden on Leadership. McGraw Hill, New York, 2005, p. 74.