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Center for Enlightened Leadership

The Virtuometer

  Maybeth Conway
  Maybeth Conway
Senior Associate

Walking is my preferred athletic activity. Truth be told, it may be the only sport I’ve ever mastered. Today, I chose to walk alone to take full advantage of the magic and majesty of a crisp, clear New England fall morning. It was delightful.

I generally prefer to walk with friends. There’s nothing like a lively conversation to propel one painlessly through three or four miles of fitness walking. Talking and walking are perfect together.

Last year one of my more zealous walking companions gave me a pedometer as a birthday gift. While it was certainly a thoughtful gesture, I must confess that my pedometer has not seen much action. I recently came across the somewhat dusty device in my desk drawer, so I reviewed the product description booklet. It’s actually quite an efficient little gadget that measures steps taken, distance covered, stride length, elapsed time, and calories burned. One of these days, I may just strap it on.

As I walked today, my thoughts drifted to this issue of the Lens and the topic of walking your talk. Immediately, my mind returned to my little pedometer. As I continued on my way, I began to imagine a variation on the standard device. My new pedometer would be a leadership assessment tool. Given that I see virtue as the cornerstone of all principled leadership, I decided to call my new product the Virtuometer.

As I envision it, the Virtuometer will be a tiny device worn close to the core of one’s being. I’ll leave it to each leader to decide exactly where that should be. For the prototype, I’ll defer to Plato and set the functions on my tool to measure his cardinal virtues. My new pedometer will assess just four essential qualities: prudence, justice, temperance, and fortitude.

The Prudence Meter will measure the leader’s ability to follow Aristotle’s call to use “right reason applied to practice.” It will reflect the leader’s willingness to seek wise counsel from others and then put that counsel into action. It will also assess how frequently the leader chooses a temperate response to potentially volatile situations. It will reward those who thoughtfully choose their words and deeds.

The Justice Meter will focus on basic inalienable human rights. It will commend those leaders who steadfastly promote universal dignity and mutual respect under the most challenging circumstances. Leaders who indulge petty preferences and prejudices will be penalized while those who impartially uphold fairness and equity will earn their just reward.

The Fortitude Meter will measure courage in the purest sense of the word. The prudent and just leader will be rewarded for his or her ability to overcome fear and remain steadfast in the pursuit of virtuous goals. Despite inevitable difficulties, those who score well will consistently show courage, diligence, and perseverance.

The Temperance Meter will record the leader’s ability to find balance in the face of desire. When strong and potentially harmful impulses, passions, and temptations inevitably arise, this meter will measure the leader’s capacity for restraint.

At the end of the day, week, month, and year, the Virtuometer will provide the leader with a sub-score for each category as well as a composite score that will reflect his or her capacity for virtuous leadership.

Ah, if only this walker’s imaginative musings could easily be actualized. If only our current business and political leaders could be required to wear my Virtuometer. If only each of us who dare to assume leadership roles would willingly strap on such a device, think of how much brighter our future might be.

Center for Empowered Leadership ®
Email: info@cfel.org
Phone: 1.609.259.7911