Leadership and People Management

Character, Strengths and Virtues

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This technical note provides an overview of three fundamental elements from positive psychology: character, virtues and strengths. Character is the personal pattern of behavior that causes one to do good or bad actions. It is stable, but at the same time it has a range of malleability - it can be changed and improved upon. Virtues refer to habits or long-lasting attitudes and dispositions that make up a good (virtuous) character. Virtues are characteristic of a person of good character, and they tend to be valued across cultures. Strengths, or strengths of character, refer to the specific ways in which virtues are manifested: they are the defining components and mechanisms of virtues. Although human virtues and strengths have been analyzed within every major philosophical, religious and cultural tradition, what positive psychology brings to the table is the use of empirical evidence and the scientific method to tackle them. In 2004 the American Psychological Association and Oxford University Press published the Handbook and Classification of Character Strengths and Virtues, the aim of which is to summarize the findings from the research carried out by experienced researchers in the field of positive psychology. Thus, the endeavor was aimed at obtaining a systematic classification and measurement of widely and cross-culturally valued positive habits or virtues. Six broad universal categories of virtues were identified that encompass 24 specific character strengths. The six virtue categories are wisdom (cognitive strengths and use of knowledge), courage (emotional strengths, such as will and ability to accomplish goals in the face of difficulty), humanity (interpersonal strengths that involve tending and befriending others), justice (civic strengths that underlie community life), temperance (strengths that protect against excess) and transcendence (strengths that provide meaning). The classification presented in the handbook is not definitive, and the researchers expect that there will be changes applied to it in the years to come because of reconfiguration of the specific strengths that underlie each virtue (e.g. combining overlapping strengths or reordering them).
Bibliographic citation: Ribera, Alberto, "Character, Strengths and Virtues", IESE, DPON-150-E, 06/2019
Date: 03/06/2019
Author(s): Ribera, Alberto
Document type: Technical Note
Department: Managing People in Organizations
Languages: English

Learning objective To be used in Leadership Programs (Open MBAs)