Identifying character strengths – at work and beyond

Leaders are often able to identify character strengths in others quickly and decisively, which enables them to deploy the right individuals to tasks they are likely to complete successfully. Leaders learn this through experience and knowing their own core virtues – it makes them valuable in terms of deploying teams with a mix of people who are likely to succeed. Below are brief summaries of core character elements and their strengths which can be used as a guide.

A. Core virtue: Courage – exercising will to accomplish goals in the face of opposition, external or internal

calvin and hobbes


Bravery (valor):

  1. Bravery is the capacity to take action to aid others in spite of significant risks or dangers. This strength allows people to avoid shrinking from the threats, challenges, or pain associated with attempting to do good works.
  2. Brave acts are undertaken voluntarily with full knowledge of the potential adversity involved.
  3. Brave individuals place the highest importance on higher purpose and morality, no matter what the consequences might be.

Persistence (perseverance, industriousness):

  1. Persistence is the mental strength necessary to continue striving for one’s goals in the face of obstacles and setbacks. This sort of perseverance requires dedication, focus, and patience.
  2. Persistent individuals finish what they start, persisting in the quest to achieve their goals in spite of any hardships they encounter along the way.
  3. The broader and more ambitious one’s goals are, the more necessary persistence is in order to achieve them.

Integrity (authenticity, honesty):

  1. The strength of integrity is manifested speaking the truth and presenting oneself in a genuine way.
  2. A person of integrity is open and honest about his or her own thoughts, feelings, and responsibilities, being careful not to mislead through either action or omission.
  3. This strength allows one to feel a sense of ownership over one’s own internal states, regardless of whether those states are popular or socially comfortable, and to experience a sense of authentic wholeness.

Vitality (zest, enthusiasm, vigor, energy):

  1. Vitality is an approach to life marked by an appreciation for energy, liveliness, excitement, and energy.
  2. A vital person lives life as an adventure to be approached whole-heartedly.
  3. A life of vigor allows one to experience the overlap of the mental and physical realms of experience, as stress decreases and health increases. Vitality differs from contentment in that it involves greater psychological and physiological activation and enthusiasm.

Creativity (Originality, ingenuity):

  1. Creativity is the process of using one’s originality to devise novel ways to positively contribute to one’s own life or the lives of others. Such originality can range from everyday ingenuity to groundbreaking work that becomes highly recognized.
  2. Creative people are able to apply their imaginations in new and surprising ways in order to solve the problems that they encounter.
  3. Traditional notions of creativity focus on artistic expression and scientific discovery, but this strength can be applied to any area of life in which obstacles can be addressed imaginatively.

B. Core virtue: Wisdom and Knowledge (acquisition and use of knowledge)

Curiosity (interest, novelty-seeking, openness to experience):

  1. Curiosity is taking an interest in all of ongoing experience.
  2. It involves actively recognizing and pursuing challenging opportunities and seeking out new knowledge.
  3. Curiosity can be broken down into three categories: interest, novelty seeking, and openness to new experience. It is this strength that drives individuals to make discoveries and to explore the boundaries of human knowledge.

Open-mindedness (judgment, critical thinking):

  1. Open-mindedness is thinking things through and examining them from all sides. It involves a willingness to consider evidence against one’s own beliefs, plans, and goals, and to revise them if necessary.
  2. Open-minded people faithfully adhere to the standard of considering evidence fairly.
  3. This strength counteracts the pervasive “my-side bias” that prevents many people from considering views other than their own.

Love of learning:

  1. Love of learning involves enthusiastically studying new skills, topics, and bodies of knowledge.
  2. People with this strength enjoy the cognitive engagement of acquiring new skills or satisfying their curiosity, even when the material benefits of learning may not be immediately available.
  3. Love of learning allows people to persist in the face of frustrations and obstacles that arise during the course of education, both formal and informal.

Perspective (wisdom):

  1. Perspective, which is often called wisdom, is distinct from intelligence and involves a superior level of knowledge and judgment. This strength involves being able to provide wise counsel to others.
  2. It allows its possessor to address important and difficult questions about morality and the meaning of life.
  3. People with perspective are aware of broad patterns of meaning in their lives, their own strengths and weaknesses, and the necessity of contributing to their society.

C. Core virtue: Humanity (tending and befriending others)



Kindness (generosity, nurturance, care, compassion, altruistic love, “nice-ness”):

  1. Kindness consists of doing favors and good deeds for others without the expectation of personal gain.
  2. This strength requires respect for others but also includes emotional affection.
  3. Kind people find joy in the act of giving and helping other people, regardless of their degree of relatedness or similarity.

Social Intelligence (emotional intelligence, personal intelligence):

  1. Socially intelligent individuals are aware of the emotions and intentions of themselves and others.
  2. No matter what the social situation is, they attempt to make everyone involved feel comfortable and valued.
  3. Socially intelligent people are perceptive of others’ feelings and honest about their own, and are generally adept at fostering healthy relationships.


  1. Loving individuals value close relationships with others, in particular those in which sharing and caring are reciprocated.
  2. Love can be expressed toward those we depend on, toward those who depend on us, and toward those we feel romantic, sexual, and emotional attraction to.
  3. This strength allows people to put their trust in others and make them a priority in making decisions. They experience a sense of deep contentment from their devotion.

D. Core virtue: Justice (healthy community life) 


Citizenship (social responsibility, loyalty, teamwork):

  1. Citizenship involves working as a member of a group for the common good. People with this strength are loyal to the organizations of which they are members, ready to make personal sacrifices for their neighbors.
  2. The strength of citizenship is manifested through a sense of social belonging and civic responsibility.
  3. Good citizens are not blindly obedient, and when necessary they strive to change their groups for the better.

Fairness, Equity and Justice:

  1. Fairness involves treating everyone according to universal ideals of equality and justice.
  2. Fair individuals do not let their personal feelings bias their moral or ethical decisions about others, but instead rely on a broad set of moral values.
  3. True fairness incorporates both a respect for moral guidelines and a compassionate approach to caring for others. This strength is applicable at all levels of society, from everyday interactions to international issues of social justice.


  1. Leadership is the process of motivating, directing, and coordinating members of a group to achieve a common goal.
  2. Leaders assume a dominant role in social interaction, but effective leadership requires listening to the opinions and feelings of other group members as much as it involves active direction.
  3. Individuals who possess this strength are able to help their group to achieve goals in a cohesive, efficient, and amiable manner.

E. Core Virtue: Temperance – protecting against excess

Forgiveness and Mercy:

  1. This strength involves forgiving those who have wronged or offended us.
  2. Forgiveness entails accepting the shortcomings of others, giving people a second chance, and putting aside the temptation to hold a grudge or behave vengefully.
  3. Forgiveness allows one to put aside the self- destructive negativity associated with anger and to extend mercy toward a transgressor.

Humility / Modesty:

  1. Humility and modesty involve letting one’s strengths and accomplishments speak for themselves.
  2. Individuals with this strength do not need to have low self-esteem, but merely avoid seeking the spotlight and regarding themselves as better than others.
  3. Humble people are honest with themselves about their own limitations and the fallibility of their own opinions, and are open to advice and assistance from others.


  1. Prudence is a practical orientation toward future goals.
  2. It entails being careful about one’s choices, not taking undue risks, and keeping long-term goals in mind when making short-term decisions.
  3. Prudent individuals monitor and control their impulsive behavior and anticipate the consequences of their actions. This strength is not synonymous with stinginess or timidity, but instead involves an intelligent and efficient perspective towards achieving major goals in life.

Self-Regulation (self-control):

  1. Self-regulation is the process of exerting control over oneself in order to achieve goals or meet standards.
  2. Self-regulating individuals are able to control instinctive responses such as aggression and impulsivity, responding instead according to pre-conceived standards of behavior.
  3. This strength can apply both to resisting temptations, such as when a dieter avoids sugary foods, and to initiating actions, such as when someone gets up early to exercise.

F. Core virtue: Transcendance (forging connections and providing meaning)


  1. Gratitude is an awareness of and thankfulness for the good things in one’s life.
  2. Grateful individuals take time to express thanks and contemplate all that they have been given in life. Gratitude can be directed at a specific person, or simply expressed outwardly for the mere fact of existence.
  3. This strength is a mindset of appreciation and goodwill for the benefits derived from other people.

Hope (optimism, future-mindedness, future orientation):

  1. Hope is the expectation that good things will happen in the future.
  2. Hopeful individuals are confident that their efforts toward future goals will lead to their fruition.
  3. This strength leads people to expect the best from themselves and others.

Humor (playfulness):

  1. Humor involves an enjoyment of laughing, friendly teasing, and bringing happiness to others.
  2. Individuals with this strength see the light side of life in many situations, finding things to be cheerful about rather than letting adversity get them down.
  3. Humor does not necessarily refer just to telling jokes, but rather to a playful and imaginative approach to life.



Useful free resource to find out more, along with exercising to develop core strengths

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