Last night I had dinner with my wife and kids at a local pizza place. While waiting on our order and catching up on the day’s events, up walked one of my wife’s fifth grade students along with his father.
The kid is one of my favorites. An eleven year old, all boy, named Reeves.
Turns out Reeves had to miss recess yesterday. Actually, he didn’t have to. He chose to.
Seems Mrs. i2i busted the class for talking in the hallway when they were clearly told to shush.
When it came time for recess, the kids were faced with a choice. Those who had talked had to sit on a small brick wall for the entire twenty minutes. Those who had not talked were free to play.
Rather than point out who should be punished, my wife decided to throw out a character test. “You know if you talked or not. If you did, I need you on the wall. You know who you are. I am leaving you on the honor system.”
Ouch. Don’t you just hate it when the teacher does that.
My man Reeves chose to sit on the wall along with a few of his honest friends. Talk about fifth grade self leadership.
The truth is, leadership is lot like my wife’s class. Every day is filled with character tests. And most of the time we find ourselves on the honor system.
Whenever we exercise self leadership, we move closer to integrity. Whenever we don’t, we move toward pain and frustration.
We all make mistakes. Reeves did, just like I do each day. But character is not merely exposed through our mistakes. It is also forged by how we respond to them.
I suspect Reeves will think twice about talking in the hallway next time. And you can be certain that doing what is right will be easier for him, because he has already chosen to take the high road.
By the way, Reeves was smiling at supper last night.
Why? Because he had a clear conscience. That is what goes with a strong character.
If there are areas in your life where you are failing the character test, maybe it is time to follow Reeve’s lead and ‘sit yourself on the wall.’
I will leave you on the honor system.
Randy is an author, speaker, executive coach, and the CEO of InteGREAT Leadership. He invests his time encouraging leaders around the world.