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Character Development

This is the continuous development of an inner disposition and aspiration for excellence in service to something greater than oneself that exhibits itself through purposeful, principled and disciplined dedication to outward actions that embody the highest ideals expressed in the Navy ethic and core values.

Article Synopsis

Can Personality Be Changed?

Approximate time: 10 Minutes

In the article "Can Personality Be Changed?", Kaufman discusses the various studies and theories regarding personality and whether or not it can be altered. This discussion starts with the note that Americans spend inordinate amounts of money on self-improvement products, hoping to become better versions of themselves. He moves on to bring up Walter Mischel’s argument in his book Personality and Assessment, where he posited that personalities are not inherently consistent and that a person’s action are largely dependent on the situation in question. This leads Kaufman to the counterargument brought up in Seymour Epstein’s study in which he monitored people’s behaviors over a longer period of time; the study showed that while situation does matter, a person’s personality does shape their decisions and actions.

After mulling over those studies and what they say about personality and its malleability, Kaufman attempts to come to his own conclusions. He notes that even without a conscious effort, time, job investment, and commitment to long-term relationships can all evolve a person’s personality. However, a personality change outside of those catalysts requires conscious effort and deliberate planning. Kaufman notes that the act of detailed "goal-setting" is much more likely to help a person alter their personality than vague desires (deciding to go to more social gatherings rather than deciding to be more extraverted).

Kaufman’s ultimate conclusion is that while changing personality is possible, the results will be gradual, gaining over a long period of time, and never instantaneous. He determines that most people get caught in the trap of expecting quick results, failing, and then deciding that their failure was because they did not try hard enough when in reality, getting their desired results in the desired time span was impossible.

Guiding Questions

Can Personality Be Changed?

  1. If you could change something about your personality, what would it be? How would you go about changing it?
  2. Do you believe a person’s actions are dependent on their personality or the situation at hand? Why?
  3. Do you agree with Kaufman’s assertion that personality change is possible but only over a long period of time? Why or why not?

Article Synopsis

The Power of Vulnerability

Approximate time: 10 Minutes

In the video "The Power of Vulnerability", Brené Brown talks about her experiences in researching human connections. She asserts that humans are wired to seek out connections; being connected to others is the point of living—it is why we are here. In her research, she began to notice some commonalities, particularly in the way people would answer questions. Brown explains that when asked about something like love or trust or connection, many people would often respond with an example of situation where they felt unloved, betrayed, or unable to connect.

Brown goes on to determine what causes people to feel disconnected from others is a sense of shame and fear. Shame comes from the fear that if someone knew a particular thing about you, they would reject you and you would be unable to connect. It is the fear that you are not good enough.

In her research on connection, Brown was able to divide people into two basic categories: people who had a strong sense of worthiness and those who struggled for it. What truly separated these two kinds of people was remarkably simple; the people who had a sense of worthiness simple believed themselves to be worthy. Brown then refocused on the people from her study who felt worthiness to find commonalities. Ultimately, she determined that those people felt worthy had the "courage to be imperfect… the compassion to be kind to themselves first and then to others… [and] they had connection… as a result of authenticity." They were not afraid to live as themselves. They were not afraid to live vulnerably.

Brown concludes that even though it feels easier to push away vulnerability and to numb away negative emotions, the result of that numbing is that positive emotions also get buried, preventing people from living to the fullest. A person cannot truly live without pursuing happiness, but they cannot pursue happiness without leaving themselves vulnerable to pain.

Guiding Questions

The Power of Vulnerability

  1. Do you agree with General Dempsey in that the military should be considered a profession rather than a career or job? Why or why not?
  2. Why would General Dempsey consider the act of harming others such a great responsibility for the military?
  3. General Dempsey considered the military’s subordination to the Constitution to be part of its professional ethos. What is another important aspect of the military’s professional ethos?

Full Article/Reference

The Power of Vulnerability

Brown, Brené. YouTube, TEDTalks, 3 Jan. 2011, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iCvmsMzlF7o. Accessed 26 June 2018.

Article Synopsis

General Dempsey Reflects: The Profession of Arms

Approximate time: 5 Minutes

In the video “General Dempsey Reflects: The Profession of Arms”, General Martin E. Dempsey asserts the concept of the military not just being a job or a career, but a profession. He supports the point of view that it is necessary to consider the military a profession due to the nature of the occupation. In the military, you have to not only put your own life at risk, but also the lives of others. Dempsey also emphasizes the importance of the military’s pledge, not to a person or a party, but to the Constitution. With that pledge, parties or persons in positions of power in the Government do not ever have to wonder whether their military will be subordinate to them; it is simply the nature of the profession to adhere to the Constitution. In addition to discussing the military’s allegiance, Dempsey quotes Samuel Huntington’s phrase, “We manage violence on behalf of the nation.” In quoting this, Dempsey presses upon the great responsibility that lies on the military to harm others for the good of the country; only a professional force could (or should) be entrusted with such a great responsibility.

Guiding Questions

General Dempsey Reflects: The Profession of Arms

  1. Do you agree with General Dempsey in that the military should be considered a profession rather than a career or job? Why or why not?
  2. Why would General Dempsey consider the act of harming others such a great responsibility for the military?
  3. General Dempsey considered the military’s subordination to the Constitution to be part of its professional ethos. What is another important aspect of the military’s professional ethos?

Full Article/Reference

General Dempsey Reflects: The Profession of Arms

U.S. Army. “General Dempsey Reflects: The Profession of Arms”, YouTube, 24 Sep 2015, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xypgo6sb51g. Accessed 19 Jun 2018.

Article Synopsis

Contagion and Differentiation in Unethical Behavior: The Effect of One Bad Apple on the Barrel

Approximate time: 5 Minutes

In the above-referenced article, authors, Ariely, Ayal, and Gina, make the case that the propensity to behave dishonestly is somewhat contagious. The authors contend that ethical behavior is dependent on several variables or influences, including social norms and what is described as saliency. Saliency refers to whether ethical standards are made known, as well as whether they are deemed important. These influences can encourage behaviors in either direction.

In the first half of the article, the authors cite sources that support the connection between ethics and influence, based on people’s perceptions of their own or others’ behaviors. One idea links to cost-benefit, such as the possibility someone may cheat based on the likelihood of getting caught. A second idea ties to saliency, in either reports of dishonest behavior, such as a news story, and in immediacy of review of ethical rules, or frequency of moral reminders. Finally, a third idea relates to social norms. This involves descriptive norms, or what most people will do, and injunctive norms, particular behaviors that most people approve or disapprove of. The significant factor in social norms is the degree in which people identify with others, later referred to by the authors as in-group-identity, which held a much higher influence on behavior, than out-group identity.

The second half of the article focuses on two experiments conducted by the authors. Both experiments were conducted with groups of students at Carnegie Mellon University. The conclusion of the first experiment proved the concept of social norms, where a dishonest act by one in-group member had significant influence on the dishonesty of other in-group members. The second experiment proved that saliency also had a significant impact on dishonest behaviors. However, in both experiments, cost-benefit, mentioned above, did not influence outcomes. The authors hypothesized that the combination of these factors, social norms and saliency coupled together, may more easily or quickly push negative behaviors.

The authors conclude that the question of whether dishonest ethics are contagious is fundamental to organizations and society. The authors say that the health of social environments depend on the ability of individuals, especially leaders and role-models, to exhibit ethical norms and values. Based on the authors’ findings, both social norms and saliency can be "useful tools to fight dishonesty."

Guiding Questions

Contagion and Differentiation in Unethical Behavior: The Effect of One Bad Apple on the Barrel

  1. Do you agree with the premise of this article that dishonest ethics are contagious? Why or why not?
  2. Besides the three influences mentioned—cost-benefit, social norms, and saliency, what other factors influence tendencies toward unethical behavior?
  3. As a leader, how can you practically implement social norms or saliency as tools to fight dishonest behavior?
  4. Conversely, as a leader, how could you mitigate behavior problems associated with negative peer pressure?

Full Article/Reference

Contagion and Differentiation in Unethical Behavior: The Effect of One Bad Apple on the Barrel

Ariely, Dan; Ayal, Shahar; Gino, Francesca. "Contagion and Differentiation in Unethical Behavior: The Effect of One Bad Apple on the Barrel." Psychological Science, Vol. 20, No. 3, pp. 393 – 398, March 2009. Accessed 17 June 2018.

Article Synopsis

The Optimism Bias (TED talk)

Approximate time: 20 Minutes

In the above-referenced TED talk, speaker Ali Sharrot, a cognitive neuroscientist, discusses the optimism bias, which is the tendency to view the world with rose colored glasses. She says most of us are more optimistic than realistic, but we are oblivious to this fact. She discloses the key is to be aware of it, which doesn’t make it go away. Ultimately, she recommends a balance in protecting ourselves from the dangers of this bias, while remaining hopeful.

The speaker further defines the optimism bias as the tendency to overestimate good events happening in our lives and underestimate bad events. Citing aspects of her research, she indicates most of our brains are wired with this tendency.

When looking at the question of whether the optimism bias is good for us—and whether it makes us happier as people, the speaker makes three points. First, she says, interpretation matters; people with high expectations always feel better. Second, anticipation makes us happy; people prefer to wait within shorter timeframes, rather than instant gratification. Third, and possibly most significantly, optimism makes us try harder. This often directly leads to success and other benefits, such as reduced stress and anxiety.

The speaker then looks at the question, "how do we maintain optimism in the face of reality?" She says most people internalize positive information, more often than negative information. She discusses the pitfalls of the optimism bias, which may cause us engage in more risky behaviors, faulty planning, and financial collapse. She advocates reaping the benefits of the optimism bias, while at the same time factoring in necessary adjustments to compensate for it.

Guiding Questions

The Optimism Bias (TED talk)

  1. Based on the speaker’s definitions, do you see yourself as an optimist, pessimist, or realist? Why?
  2. In what ways has having a positive outlook benefited you in your Navy career? In what ways has it been detrimental?
  3. What are some areas you should factor in the optimism bias, to strike a better balance between optimism and realism? Provide a practical example of how to do this.

Full Article/Reference

The Optimism Bias (TED talk)

Sharrot, Ali. "The Optimism Bias," TED talk. February 2012. Accessed 21 June 2018.