COMMENTARY 983.3: Eight Laws of Leadership

Take a look around. Business, education, politics. If there’s one thing we don’t have enough of, it’s good leaders —men and women who have the vision and the ability to change things for the better. Former Air Force General William Cohen wrote a fine book called The Stuff of Heroes in which he identified eight laws of leadership. Here are …

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COMMENTARY 981.4: I Owe It to My Family

An angry woman once approached me after a speech to tell me off. “It’s easy for you to talk about my responsibility to speak out or object to waste or wrongdoing,” she said, “but I’m a single mother and my highest duty is to keep my job. If that means occasionally looking the other way, so be it. You have …

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COMMENTARY 981.3: Fixing Toxic Relationships

Are there people in your life who regularly cause you to feel bad about yourself? Most of us care what others think of us, so knowing that someone doesn’t like or approve of the judgments we’ve made or how we look can be hurtful. And when we’re judged by someone whose approval we crave, such as a parent, spouse, teacher, …

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COMMENTARY 981.1: Getting Started

Chris’s parents were proud of him when he graduated from college. But it’s been six months and he hasn’t gotten a job yet. In fact, he hasn’t looked seriously. He has no idea what he wants to do and he’s thinking of grad school. He’s living at home with his parents and things are getting tense, especially with his father, …

COMMENTARY 980.4: Controlling the Weather

While teachers can have a lifelong effect on the way students think, psychologist Haim Ginott has focused on a more immediate aspect of impact: the creation of a positive or negative physical and emotional environment that can determine the quality of a child’s life. “I’ve come to a frightening conclusion,” he said. “I am the decisive element in the classroom. …

COMMENTARY 980.3: The TEAM Approach to Teaching Character

I want my kids to be smart and successful, but I also want them to be good. I want them to be the kind of people other parents would like to see their kids marry. I also want them to make sound, values-based decisions that will help them be safe and happy. So, like most parents, I spend lots time …

COMMENTARY 980.2: Family Values

Our values — the core beliefs that drive behavior — determine our character, our ethics and our potential. Thus, the most important thing we can do for our children is to stimulate them to develop positive values that will help them become wise, happy and good. This is no simple matter. The first step is to achieve greater clarity about …

COMMENTARY 980.1: Who Am I to Judge? – The Ethics of Moral Judgments

Almost every week someone indignantly attacks my integrity because I offended them with a real or perceived opinion they didn’t like. The underlying assumption is that stating an opinion on any controversial matter violates the sacred duty of neutrality. First, I’m a teacher and a commentator, not a judge or journalist. Although I strive mightily to be objective, I don’t …

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COMMENTARY 979.4: Teaching Our Children to Be Better Than Us

Do parents have moral standing to impose standards on their children that they themselves did not follow when they were kids? Is it ever ethical for parents to lie to a child about their youthful experiences? These are important questions because it’s a parent’s duty to teach, enforce, advocate and model good behavior for their kids. Sure, it’d be easier …

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COMMENTARY 979.3: What Do You Want to See More of and Less of?

Inspirational author and speaker Stephen Covey once said, “Start with the end in mind.” So whenever a company wants to launch an ethics initiative, we at Josephson Institute use a simple exercise: “Look at your organization today – its managers, line employees, and customers – and list behaviors and attitudes you’d like to see more of and less of.” We …

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COMMENTARY 979.2: Learning and Believing

One of the marks of our species is our limitless capacity to learn. Sometimes we learn how to do something we’ve never done before. Sometimes we learn facts about the world, about other people, and about ourselves. These sorts of things make us smarter and more skillful. But what’s really important are the things that make us wiser, our learned …

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COMMENTARY 977.5: Things Are Just Things

Years ago, a listener told me her mom died leaving only a general will and a house full of personal items with sentimental and, in some cases, significant financial value. My listener said tensions were building among her and her two sisters as they approached the problem of allocating their mom’s stuff. Each sister had different and conflicting expectations. The …

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COMMENTARY 977.4: Coaching for Character

I’ve spent lots of time with some of the world’s most successful coaches. I discovered that many of them think about character a lot, especially traits that are important to winning – like self-discipline, perseverance, resiliency, and courage. They pay less attention to virtues like honesty, integrity, responsibility, compassion, respect, and fairness — aspects of character that make a good …

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Kids Like to Win; Adults Need to Win

Whether you’re a sports fan or not, you have to acknowledge the powerful cultural influence that sports have on our culture. The values of millions of participants and spectators are shaped by the values conveyed in sports, including our views of what is permissible and proper in the competitive pursuit of personal goals. Professional sports and even highly competitive intercollegiate …

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COMMENTARY 977.2: Tell Someone They’re Valued

The students at Sandy’s high school were badly shaken by the news that a classmate had killed himself. The suicide note said, “It’s hard to live when nobody cares if you die.” Glen, a teacher, realized this was a teachable moment about the importance of making people feel valued. He asked the class to imagine they were about to die …

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COMMENTARY 976.5: The True Meaning of Our Lives

I saw a cartoon showing an old king checking in at the gates of heaven. He introduced himself as “Edward The Good.” The gatekeeper with a large book in front of him said, “Well, Eddie, we’ll be the judge of that.” The point is that, in the end, generous self-appraisals won’t matter. Our epitaphs will be written and eulogies delivered …

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COMMENTARY 976.3: The Saga of the Lost Wallet

I suspect it’s an indication of low expectations that I was so delightfully surprised when I found a note on my door Saturday afternoon from a person who said they found my wallet a few hours earlier. Apparently, after pulling out my credit card to get gas, I put my wallet on the top of the car for a moment …

COMMENTARY 975.5: What Is Character?

Here’s a riddle: You can hardly ever find it anymore — especially in politics or business. Lots of schools don’t teach it anymore. We want more of it in our children and in all the adults who interact with them. We want it from our bosses and the people who fix our cars. And most of us believe we have …

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COMMENTARY 975.4: A Parent’s Love for the Family Treasure

There are all kinds of love. The passionate romantic love immortalized and often fantasized by poets and novelists; Platonic love among friends, the love of humanity preached by missionaries and ministers, the love of country, and even the love of our work. I’ve been fortunate to have experienced all of these forms but none has impressed me more than the deep, enduring …

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COMMENTARY 975.2: Unkind Words Are Weapons

With four teenage daughters, I frequently find myself correcting, disciplining, or simply protesting unnecessary and unkind comments certain to anger or wound a sister and evoke counterattacks that fill the air with nastiness. Hoping to get them to think before they speak in the future, I often ask, “What did you expect to accomplish by that remark?” and “Did it …

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COMMENTARY 973.4: The Pressure to Cheat

What’s causing the growing hole in our moral ozone? Why are cheating and lying so common in schools, on the sports field, and in business and politics? Apparently it’s a thing called pressure. Kids are under pressure to get into college, athletes and coaches are under pressure to win, and, according to a survey by the American Management Association, the …

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COMMENTARY 973.3: Gifts From the Heart Are Gifts of the Heart

According to legend, a young man roaming the desert came across a spring of delicious crystal-clear water. The water was so sweet he filled his leather canteen so he could bring some back to a tribal elder who had been his teacher. After a four-day journey, he presented the water to the old man, who took a deep drink, smiled …

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COMMENTARY 973.1: The Power of Words

“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me.” Really? Insults, teasing, gossip, and verbal abuse can inflict deeper and more enduring pain than guns and knives. Ask anyone who as a kid was fat, skinny, short, tall, flat-chested, big-busted, acne-faced, uncoordinated, slow-witted, or exceptionally smart. In schoolrooms and playgrounds across the country, weight, height, looks, …

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COMMENTARY 972.5: The Self-Portrait Called Character

While I was on a radio call-in show talking about cheating, a listener I’ll call Stan mocked my concern. He cheated to get into college, he said. He cheated in college to get a job. And now he occasionally cheats on his job to get ahead. In fact, he concluded, cheating is such an important life skill that parents ought …

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COMMENTARY 972.3: Acts of Kindness and Two Sets of Proud Parents

I received an email with a story worth sharing. Only the names have been changed to preserve privacy. Doug is the proud and loving father of Emma, a high school junior who takes a leadership class responsible for putting on dances and other student events. All student body officers must take the class, but a number of other kids like …

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COMMENTARY 972.1: Confessions of a Lincoln Groupie

I am an Abraham Lincoln groupie. He is my biggest hero. I have a huge collection of books and Lincoln memorabilia, my daughter, Abrielle, was named after him as was one of our family dogs. And by blind chance, my son Justin was born on his birthday. I often visit the Lincoln Memorial and stand in awe of his magnificent …

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COMMENTARY 971.2: Rules to Survive and Thrive the Teen Years

One of the toughest jobs in the world is being a teenager. Everything is in transition. Everything is intense — even apathy. Kids on the brink of adulthood have to cope with inconsistencies and conflicts. The desire to be special and different clashes with the need to belong and fit in. The desire for independence collides with an aversion to …

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COMMENTARY 970.4: Good Relationships Make a Good Life

If we interviewed 100 happy people, I think the most prominent common denominator would be good relationships. Despite the widespread promotion of materialism and vanity in our culture, wealth and beauty are not enough to produce happiness. In fact, they’re not even necessary. What’s more, bad relationships — at work, at home, or among friends — are a surefire source …