Amid daily headlines highlighting cybersecurity threats, biodiversity loss, pressing economic risks, and global tension, we are regularly reminded of our world’s collective crises. These challenges, though diverse in nature, share a fundamental deficit: leadership. Or, more accurately, the scarcity of leaders embodying strong, well-developed character. Yet, what does 'character' really mean, and how does this concept relate to tackling some of humanity's most daunting challenges?

In their compelling new book, Character: What Contemporary Leaders Can Teach Us about Building a More Just, Prosperous, and Sustainable Future, Gerard Seijts, Professor of Organizational Behaviour at Ivey, and Kimberley Young Milani, Director of Ivey’s Ian O. Ihnatowycz Institute for Leadership, offer a fresh take on this critical concept. Although informed by more than a decade worth of scholarship through the Ihnatowycz Institute, the book moves beyond traditional research to illuminate the real-life stories, experiences, and insights of 17 of today’s most influential leaders – all who embody and actively practice strong dimensions of character.

“Over the past 15 years, the Ihnatowycz Institute has generated deep and exceptional scholarship on character involving leaders from the public, private, and not for profit sectors.  But, in creating this book, we sought to do more than only convey facts and data. We wanted to bring research to life,” said Young Milani. “So, we employed storytelling to weave the insights of these remarkable leaders into a narrative that is compelling, accessible, and tangible for a wide range of people.”

Leading on the earth and into the stars

With a diverse and practitioner-based readership in mind, careful consideration went into the composition of leaders that would be featured in Character. Rather than solely highlighting business figures, the book focuses on the first-hand stories of 17 leaders spanning diverse industries and backgrounds, including: The Honourable Murray Sinclair, retired Senator of Canada, Chief Commissioner of Canada’s Indian Residential Schools Truth and Reconciliation Commission; Nobel laureate Maria Ressa, CEO of Rappler; and Neil deGrasse Tyson, the famed astrophysicist, author, and broadcaster.

“Quite frankly, it was deceptively simple in the how we selected the leaders. We looked at the 11 dimensions of leader character, and created a list of individuals who exemplify at least one of these dimensions,” said Seijts. “But, regardless of which dimension they exemplified, each of them embodied inspiration, offering invaluable insights into character development and the dimensions crucial to their success.”

Entering a new dimension of leadership

Despite its foundation in philosophy, psychology, and ethics, the concept of "character" struggled to gain traction in business development and education. Often seen as ambiguous and difficult to define, its importance is acknowledged but its measurement remains elusive. After all, how does one accurately gauge the character of an individual?

Thanks to more than a decade of research from Ivey’s renowned Ihnatowycz Institute, a comprehensive framework has emerged, delineating leader character into 11 dimensions: judgment, courage, drive, collaboration, integrity, temperance, accountability, justice, humility, humanity, and transcendence. It's the practice and embodiment of these dimensions that fundamentally mold a leader's approach to engaging with the world and navigating crucial decisions.

The book reveals how character leadership is about your disposition to lead, rather than your position, and bringing the best of yourself to whatever endeavour or work you find yourself in.

“Ultimately, it’s not the skills, competencies, and talent you bring to the table. While these are important, it’s who we are that influences and impacts how these skills ultimately manifest,” said Young Milani.

A guiding beacon forward

The anticipation surrounding the release of a new book is always palpable. But Young Milani and Seijts are particularly eager to see the widespread release of their new work, recognizing its potential to offer practical guidance and ignite motivation on a broad scale.

After long observing a clear link between strong leader character and effective decision-making and subsequent action, Seijts said he’s optimistic leaders worldwide will also see this link, along with actionable insights, from the narratives of this book.

“I hope that through these incredible stories, leaders everywhere think more critically about their personal character. And, that they make a sincere effort to improve and elevate their own character in the service of building better relationships, teams, organizations, communities, and – eventually – better societies,” he said.

Expanding on this, the authors aspire for the book to serve as both an inspiration and a guiding beacon, paving a new way forward toward a brighter and more hopeful future for generations to come.

“Our world is at a crossroads,” said Young Milani. “We have wicked, grand problems to solve. And people are recognizing that the mindset that got us into these problems, isn’t the mindset that will get us out of it. We have ridden short-term cycles for long enough. Now is the time to seek different solutions. Now is the time for character.”

Character: What Contemporary Leaders Can Teach Us about Building a More Just, Prosperous, and Sustainable Future, published by ECW Press, is available now widely across Canada at select bookstores and on

  • Tags
  • Leadership
  • Thought leadership
  • Kimberley Milani
  • Gerard Seijts
  • Critical issues
  • Evolution of work
Back to top