September 18, 2018 by

Whenever I think about the veterans I know who have started businesses after leaving the military, I reflect on the leadership qualities they learned and bring with them to the workplace. Honesty, responsibility, respect—yes, these are important values. But the best quality of them all, the one that uplifts and inspires me the most, is their extreme sense of honor. 

Having a sense of honor feels like an ancient thing, a deep and noble thing. When life is full of extreme trials and devastations, honorable people rise above the rest and stay focused on what is excellent. Others might give up or give in, succumb to rationalizations and workarounds, but those with a sense of honor have a strong appreciation of the good and the right, and they intentionally choose to live by their moral principles.

Notice, then, that the key to honor is as much about resolve and willpower as it is about having specific moral principles front of mind. Honor is an action word. Without consistent, calm, clear follow-through, a sense of honor is hollow.

When I visualize an honorable person, I think of an archer, focused on a bullseye, bow pulled taut
with an arrow ready for release. Years of dedication and practice enable the archer to remain cool and composed, shooting the arrow straight and true. Yes, for me, a sense of honor is acquired over time and through experience. 

These days, I think I have a pretty good ability to pick out businesspeople who are, or have been, in the military. I pick up on their sense of honor. When I recently met Richard Messina, owner of Play It Again Sports, his demeanor and description of how and why he runs his business exemplified his sense of honor. He could, so easily, buy used sports equipment for pennies for what they are worth and resell them for much more than they are worth. But his sense of honor directs him. He sees himself and his business as a part of the community and, so, unfair business practices are not acceptable. Rich was in the Air Force for 17 years. His aim is straight and true. 

To Rich and all Omaha vets: I admire your sense of honor and, in this, I want to be just like you.


This column was printed in the October/November 2018 edition of B2B. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

Beverly Kracher, Ph.D., is the executive director of the Business Ethics Alliance and the Daugherty Chair in Business Ethics and Society at Creighton University.