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Duty – You have to DO what you want to BE

Duty Defined: Taking action based on both our assigned tasks and moral obligations.

Moms know what Duty means. When I write about all the Six Habits of Character, I always define them in 12 words or less. But moms have boiled the definition of Duty down to two words – Ought to.

My mom taught me about Duty because she was always telling me what I ought to do:

● “You ought to go down the street and introduce yourself to that new boy who just moved in.”

● “You ought to shovel the walkway for the neighbors when you finish ours.”

● “You ought to write a ‘Thank You Note’ to Mrs. Tillar.”

● “You ought to do your own laundry instead of expecting your wife to do it.”

Every time I prepare to speak with audiences in law enforcement, the corporate world, or non-profits, the topic of Duty always generates a lot of discussion. It is not a word that is thrown around meetings in conference rooms very much these days. But, it is a vital Habit of Character for leaders to exercise. All the Habits of Character are like muscles. The more we exercise them, the stronger they get.

The Habits of Character work together just like muscles work together. Each muscle relies on another adjoining muscle to support it and give it added strength. Exercising Duty requires other Habits of Character to work as well. If we want to exercise Duty and do what we ought to do, then we will likely need:

● Courage - when we ought to ask a question even if it makes us uncomfortable.

● Humility – when we ought to admit we “don’t know” and ask for help.

● Integrity – when we ought to enforce a standard with a tenured employee.

● Selflessness – when we ought to help a neighbor clean up after the wind topples their trash can.

● Positivity – when we ought to stop the gossipers from spreading rumors.

We have to DO what we want to BE. If we want to be a Leader of Character that people trust and rely upon, we have to DO what we ought to do. Look in the mirror twice a day. First thing in the morning ask yourself, “What are the things I ought to do today?” Then do your best to do those things.

Then at the end of the day ask yourself, “Did I do the things I ought to have done today?” If you know you didn’t do those things, then evaluate why. Check your excuses and see if you are just shifting blame. Check your motivations for why you chose to do or not do those things. Then work on doing better tomorrow.

We are not perfect. As a leader, we will never be perfect in doing our Duty and fulfilling all our moral obligations – ought to’s. But the determination to evaluate our choices each day and do better in the future, means we are a Leader of Character who is determined to grow.

That is the type of leader we all ought to strive to be. Not perfect. But always getting better. It’s our moral obligation – our Duty. If we do that, moms everywhere will be proud!

Dig Deep Questions:

● What is something you ought to do this week?

● What is something you ought to have done last week that you can change?


Exercising Duty takes work and is a lifelong journey. We want to partner with you as you practice the habit of Duty daily, which is why we have created FREE tools and resources to guide your journey.

To make it easy to keep the definition of Duty visible on your screens and devices, we would like to share our FREE Duty backgrounds for desktop and mobile available for download at:

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