Does Character Still Count?

By Ken Garner
In April 15, 2016

I’m about to violate an important personal principle related to the content I use in my blogs. I regard any mention of religion or politics to be too controversial and not really related to Epicomm’s work. However, the current cast of presidential candidates and their respective behavior is forcing me to make an exception.

I’ve witnessed my share of local, regional, and national elections, and as a result seen more than enough boorish behavior. I’m not naïve. As a political science major I learned that American politics can be rough and tumble. But, this presidential campaign seems to have set a new standard for a level of bad behavior that we would never tolerate from our children, colleagues, and friends…and these are people who aspire to lead our nation, and the world. What has happened to character? Does character still count? How does this relate to our industry and the businesses we lead?

Are these candidates a true and accurate reflection of the electorate? Of us? Is this the way we want to run our businesses and lead the people we have responsibility for? I hope, and think, we set a much higher standard for ourselves. But, it’s important to reflect on what character is and why it is so important.

In a 2002 American Management Association survey 1500 managers were asked what they wanted from their leaders. The number one answer from 82 percent of the respondents was integrity. Integrity, according to David Horsager in his bestselling book The Trust Edge,is one of two primary components of character. Horsager continues his review of character and integrity with the following thoughts –

  • Integrity is being consistent in thoughts, words, and actions.
  • Integrity is what you do when no one else is looking.
  • Integrity is keeping your word and honoring your commitments.
  • Moral character counts. If a person lies, cheats, or breaks personal commitments what makes anyone think that person can be trusted?

And, he suggests there are five ways to build character –

  • Be humble – humility is the beginning of wisdom.
  • Live out your principles and values – living by your principles will make decision making easier.
  • Be intentional – integrity doesn’t happen by accident. We are all products of our thoughts and habits.
  • Practice self-discipline – being of high character takes the ability to what is right over what is popular or easy.
  • Be accountable – Take responsibility for what you do. Open yourself up to accountability.

Steven Covey defines integrity as the value we place on ourselves. He writes, “As we clearly identify our values and proactively organize and execute around these values on a daily basis, we develop self-awareness and independent will by making and keeping meaningful promises and commitments.” If you are familiar with Covey you will know that he believes this process begins by making and keeping promises to yourself.

The importance of integrity and character should not need to be underscored. Any success achieved without character will only be temporary and transitory. Any lasting success will need to be built, in large part, on high levels of character and integrity.

I’m truly saddened that this important ingredient seems to be missing from our presidential candidates and from the process. I’ve not seen one single interview that challenged any of the candidates’ character. Maybe character is not as important to American politics as I think, but I know you know how important character is to your personal and professional success.

Just some food for thought…

Ken Garner

President & CEO Ken Garner joined Epicomm – then the Association of Marketing Service Providers – in November 2008 as its President and CEO after a 33 year career in the printing industry – all with the same company. He joined United Litho, a heatset web magazine printing company, after receiving his undergraduate degree. Working his way up the corporate ladder from janitor/delivery driver he held a variety of jobs including V.P of Operations and V.P. of Sales and Marketing. He spent the last 12 years of his printing career as United Litho’s president. In 1994, he engineered the sale of the company to the Sheridan Group and became a member of its Leadership Team.


  1. Here’s hoping that the lack of any comments is not the answer to your question. In this busy world I happened to stumble on your message and agree with your concern. Almost a month after your comment and the choices are now more clear. If this is the best we have to choose from, I will stand by
    my own integrity and vote for neither. The society will get what they have asked for and we will sink further into the abyss. Strap it down and hang on.

  2. This is so important to me. Three of our four bright and sweet kids are in their first year of college and facing their first presidential vote. Having taught them that character matters, my heart goes out to them in this election. However, they are savvy and optimistic, as well as insightful about human nature and foibles (less judgmental, more discerning) and in “testing” the words and works of these two candidates, one simply does not measure up. He may be a good provider (more by default than sheer brains or grit) but he isn’t a good protector of anyone but himself. Our first woman candidate has endured some rough experiences and made some foolish mistakes, to be sure, but she keeps trying and working on improving herself and her work in the face of some heavy odds and other obstinate foolish people. I wish you could work with her if she becomes the President. She’s been jaded by life and the seriously out of whack processes of U.S. politics, she needs some fine tuning maybe, but unlike the promoter salesman, her character is not fundamentally flawed.

Leave A Comment