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Published: 08-12-2019

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Summary of Questions of Character Joseph L. Badaracco Jr

Chapter two of Queries of Character by Joseph L. Badaracco Jr. discusses moral codes and how leaders develop their own. Badaracco utilizes the story Issues Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe to illustrate his message. The story centers around the leader of an African tribe named Okonkwo who is the “psychological and emotional counterpart of the robust, determined people who run most organizations today” (Badaracco, p. 31-32). At initial, he is specifically the variety of leader his tribe is looking for due to his powerful moral compass. When the British try to modify their way of life, Okonkwo tries to have his clan comply with him in opposition. Nonetheless, his tribe eventually rejects his leadership because his moral code “did not develop and evolve over the years” (Badaracco, p. 32). What initially produced Okonkwo a excellent leader, turned “out to be signs of weakness, not strength (Badaracco, p. 32).

This story demonstrates the complexities of a leader’s moral code. Due to these complexities “it is crucial for males and women in positions of duty to reflect, from time to time, on the soundness of their moral codes” (Badaracco, p. 34). Okonkwo’s life “offers a number of basic ways for leaders to test the soundness of their personal deep convictions” (Badaracco, p. 51). His story also “warns us against viewing moral codes as straightforward, mechanistic devices” (Badaracco, p. 51). It is dangerous for a leader to believe they are acting morally just due to the fact they believe they have a strong moral code. According to Badaracco (2006), a solid moral code has its roots in what the neighborhood values. It is dynamic and “requires an ongoing, open engagement with the moral and sensible life that surrounds a leader” (Badaracco, p. 52). It is revealed in a leader’s failures as well as their reactions to them. Badaracco believes that flexibility is “the clearest sign of a great moral code” (Badaracco, p. 52). Okonkwo was so firm in his own beliefs that he ignored these around him that could have helped him develop this flexibility.

Discussion Inquiries

  1. How was Okonkwo in the story Issues Fall Apart comparable to the leaders of today’s organizations?

  2. He was a difficult worker whose drive and determination lead him to the prime of his neighborhood. He was “the psychological and emotional counterpart of the sturdy, determined men and women who run most organizations today” (Badaracco, p. 32).
  3. What do good leaders do when faced with their personal failures?

  4. Good leaders “reflect on their reactions to them they also look for explanations, and they commence by searching at themselves rather than blaming others” (Badaracco, p. 41).
  5. What are the three standards that can be employed to judge the functions of one’s moral code?

  6. The fundamental characteristics “can be judged by 3 standards: clarity, motive, and dominance” (Badaracco, p. 43).
  7. Why did Okonkwo fail when he attempted to act on his insights as a leader?

  8. Okonkwo did not vocalize his values and his code of ethics was not for a altering globe. He needed “the capacity to crystallize and powerfully communicate his convictions and concepts – in techniques that resonated with the values and feeling of the individuals he wanted to lead” (Badaracco, p. 50).
  9. What does the story of Okonkwo’s life inform us and warn us against?

  10. His life reveals the complexities of one’s moral code. It “shows us the importance of a leader’s moral code and provides several standard methods for leaders to test the soundness of their personal deep convictions” (Badaracco, p. 51). His story also “warns us against viewing moral codes as simple, mechanistic devices” (Badaracco, p. 51).
  11. What does Badaracco think a sound moral code resembles?

  12. He compares a solid moral code to an “old, weathered tree” (Badaracco, p. 51). It has “deep roots in the values of communities and in the lives of their leaders” (Badaracco, p. 51). A very good moral code also “grows and evolves with time” (Badaracco, p. 51).

Sensible Applications


One of the main ideas that this chapter discuses is that leaders must continuously reevaluate their moral codes. It is crucial that they do not grow to be stuck on their past beliefs because “the clearest sign of a very good moral code is flexibility rather than firmness” (Badaracco, p. 52). Flexibility permits leaders to examine circumstances and act accordingly. A static moral code can lead to the downfall of well-which means leaders.
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