Category Archives: Blog Post

Blog Post: Character and Leadership

Character and Leadership

By Ed DeRoche

When you deal with human beings in leadership situations, you deal with what is essential to the study of leadership, namely, moral and ethical issues. Through the study of lives, one finds out how individuals have confronted specific actions and decisions relating to leadership positions. – James MacGregor Burns, December 4, 2004

The film “Lincoln” is the talk of the town. It has resurrected an interest in the leadership styles of presidents, a topic that has been written about by many historians and leadership scholars. We offer an undergraduate course on the topic. The film confirms my readings about Lincoln’s character— integrity, trust, honesty, fairness, a “sharing leader”(Burns’ term) along with a strong sense of values, a commitment to them (example: liberty and equality), and the ability to communicate (persuade). Lincoln’s “approach shows that truth is a common denominator for all interactions, among any group, and with people of varying personalities.” (D. Phillips, Lincoln On Leadership.)

While there are no specific formulas for successful, effective leadership, there are guidelines that potential and current leaders should not ignore. Studying Lincoln would be a good place to start. Other examples are worth investigating as well.

“Character,” according to Zenger and Folkman (The Extraordinary Leader)

is “the center pole, the core of leadership effectiveness.” Greenstein (The Presidential Difference) offers six qualities (might they be called “character traits?”) related to the leadership styles and performances of presidents. These are public communication, organizational capacity, political skill, vision, cognitive style, and emotional intelligence

Historian and presidential scholar, Robert Dallek’s “Lessons from the Lives and Times of Presidents,” describes seven factors that distinguish effective and ineffective presidential leadership – vision, pragmatism, charisma, consensus, trust, judgment, and luck. Notice the “character factors” specified or implied—trust, perseverance, integrity, respect, responsibility, etc.

The Turknett Leadership Group ( offers the “Leadership Character Model” stating that “Leadership is about character – who you are not what you do.” The model includes three core qualities as the keys of “leadership character”:

Integrity — honesty, credibility, trustworthiness. “Without integrity, no leader can be successful.”

Respect — empathy, lack of blame, motivational mastery, humility. “Respect helps create a culture of partnership and teamwork.”

Responsibility — self-confidence, accountability, focus on the whole, courage. “Great leaders accept full responsibility for personal success and for the success of projects, teams, and the entire organization.”

Those of you in the education profession are “character educators.” You deal with “moral and ethical issues” everyday. You are also educational leaders positioned at all levels—in the classroom, at the school, in central office, in your professional community, and in the public arena.

It might be wise to examine who you are (your character and values), how you perform (your skills and talents), and how you lead (sharing, partnerships, team-building).

Blog Post: What About Empathy?

What About Empathy?

By Ed DeRoche

If your emotional abilities aren’t in hand, if you don’t have self-awareness, if you are not able to manage your distressing emotions, if you can’t have empathy and have effective relationships, then no matter how smart you are, you are not going to get very far. – Professor Daniel Goleman

Over the past month, we have had informal discussions at the Center about violence from bullying to bullets. Teachers and parents, given the events of the past few months, seem to be struggling to find ways and resources to help their children be more in touch with their feelings and concerns about what happens to themselves and others. Thus, I want to say a few words about empathy.

Reflecting on our discussions, I began asking myself some questions about the emotions of sympathy and empathy. For example, the cards, flowers, letters that the Sandy Hook tragedy generated – were those the expressions of sympathy or empathy?

Other questions kept popping up.

  • – What is empathy?
  • – Is empathy different than sympathy?
  • – How does one learn to be emphatic? Can it be taught?
  • – Does the emotion “kick-in“ only when one actually experiences a personal or social tragedy?
  • – Do we teach empathy in our schools? Is empathy in the curriculum?
  • – What do teachers have to know? How do teachers teach it?
  • – How do parents teach it?
  • – Where and how do the young learn to be sympathetic-empathetic?
  • – What resources are available for teachers and parents?

So, like any good researcher, I “googled” the topic! As you might expect there is a rich array of information. For example, I discovered that there is a difference between sympathy and empathy. I discovered that there are three types of empathy. I found out that there are many resources available to teachers and parents. No 700-word blog will be able to thoroughly answer all of these questions. The best I can do here is highlight three discoveries.

Discovery One: There is a difference between sympathy and empathy.

Empathy is the ability to mutually experience the thoughts, emotions, and direct experience of others. It goes beyond Sympathy, which is a feeling of care and understanding for the suffering of others. Both words have similar usage but differ in their emotional meaning….Empathy (is) understanding what someone else is feeling because you have experienced it yourself or can put yourself in his/her shoes. Sympathy (is) acknowledging a person’s emotional hardships and providing comfort and assurance.

There is much more to it then these simple definitions. My current view is that there is probably a continuum that begins with the development of an understanding and practicing of sympathy (caring, compassion, etc.) that may “graduate” to enabling one to really experience the empathic stage.

Discovery Two: There are three types of empathy—cognitive, emotional, and compassionate.

Sam Chaltain (, in his blog, “The Empathy Formula,” offers a “formula” based on the works of Goleman and Ekman (Emotional Intelligence). In summary, the first stage of becoming empathetic is cognitive empathy – the act of knowing how another person feels. The capacity to physically feel the emotions of another is identified as emotional empathy. Compassionate empathy is the combination of cognitive and emotional empathy to take action about what one feels and thinks.

Discovery Three: There are resources for teachers, counselors and parents/guardians.

Three examples will suffice.

  1. Roots of Empathy
  2. Second Step
  3. Tribes 

We have resources here at the Center that we will be pleased to send to anyone who responds to this blog or emails us at

I will end the blog with this quote:

How young children FEEL is as important as how they think, and how they are TREATED is as important as what they are taught. – Jack Shonkoff, co-editor, Neurons to Neighborhoods

Blog Post: The Other Side of the Report Card

The Other Side of the Report Card
By Ed DeRoche

The school year consists partly of “school chiefs” and others pushing national and state standards, applying pressure to increase students’ test scores, and promoting “laserlike, focused efforts” on the teaching of math, science, and reading. Few school leaders talk about the “citizenship side” of the report card. Yet, it is this side of the report card that tells the real story about student achievement and behavior because it assesses social and emotional skills, and character traits. The “citizenship” side of the report card should not take second place in the “race to the top.” Why?

Michelle Borba, the author of the book, Building Moral Intelligence, writes: “Today’s kids are being raised in a much more morally toxic atmosphere than previous generations for two reasons. First, a number of critical social factors that nurture moral character are slowly disintegrating: adult supervision, models of moral behavior, spiritual or religious training, meaningful adult relationships, personalized schools, clear national values, community support, stability, and adequate parents. Second, our kids are being steadily bombarded with outside messages that go against the values we are trying to instill. Both factors make it much harder for parents to raise moral kids.”

There is concern enough for Newsweek (September 2004) to run a theme issue titled, “How to Say NO to Your Kids: Setting Limits in the Age of Excess.” The Josephsen’s Institute’s annual poll of teens reveals a rather high percentage of teens who cheat, steal, lie, and exhibit a “propensity toward violence” including bullying. Teacher polls show that teachers find students to be less respectful, more aggressive, more impulsive and impatient, and display more inappropriate language. One observer of the youth culture noted that the mantra of the “ME” generations appears to be: “I Know My Rights – I Want It Now – Someone Else Is To Blame – I’m A Victim.”

The other side of the report card also underscores the importance of social and emotional skills in the workplace. For example, the top five traits/qualities that Fortune 500 companies seek in employees are: teamwork, problem solving, interpersonal skills, communicating skills, and the ability to listen. Thomas Stanley, in his book, The Millionaire Mind, reports that a polling of 5,000 millionaires reveal that crucial to their success was integrity (being honest), discipline (self-control), social skills (getting along) and hard work (perseverance).

As we think about these observations and the citizenship side of our children’s report cards it might be wise to ask three questions:

  1. Do we really believe that children are born “morally literate?”
  2. Do we believe that they need to be taught to be moral (knowing the difference between right and wrong) and ethical (doing what is right) at home, in school, and in the community?
  3. If we want our children to be good, caring, empathetic human beings, do we let this happen by chance or do we help them develop positive social and emotional skills?

We require, push, demand, cajole our children to learn the basic skills of reading, writing, and computing. But what is more basic than nurturing them to be caring, civil, responsible, respectful human beings who know and practice the “Golden Rule”? Daniel Goleman in his book, Emotional Intelligence, notes that IQ accounts for about 20% of success in life while the remaining 80% is attributed to factors related to emotional intelligence, such as self–awareness, managing emotions, empathy, social consciousness, self-restraint, and nurturing positive relationships.

As this school year continues, let all of us join the many schools and communities in this county who are attending to the “citizenship” side of the report card by implementing programs designed to teach students democratic values, prosocial skills, emotional control and anger management, critical thinking, ethical decision-making, and what it means to be a good citizen.