Character Development: Building Leaders of Character through the Operational Force

  • Lieutenant Colonel Keith Richard Jarolimek

Current Army doctrine for character development falls short of what the Army needs to develop leaders of character. This paper demonstrates an approach to improve character development for junior leaders. Impressions gained by junior leaders in their first operational assignment are formative for the rest of their service in the profession of arms. Battalion commanders and Command Sergeants Major play the most important role in character development as they are the moral exemplars and developers of junior officers and non-commissioned officers during this influential time. The character development portion of a battalion’s leader development program should include five components: an understanding of Army character attributes; appreciation of the origins and content of the Army Ethic; individual character assessment and feedback; training and feedback in moral dilemmas; and modeling of moral, ethical behavior. To support this character development strategy, the Army needs to adopt or develop a character assessment tool and update leader development doctrine.