Attorney, businessman and former Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Drayton Nabers, Jr., shared insights gleaned from his 50-year career with students at Samford University’s Brock School of Business Thursday, April 1.
Nabers’ remarks were themed around his book, The Case for Character: Looking at Character from a Biblical Perspective, which he said he decided to write after finding that 80 percent of material he had collected in notebooks related to character.
“We don’t know how to define character because we don’t think about it,” he said, “but character is deep within us, and once developed, it is difficult to get rid of.”
“Character is engraved in us by habit and by God,” he said, adding that persons need to engrave virtues that will glorify God.
The Birmingham native and Yale School of Law graduate spoke as part of the Brock School of Business Dean’s Leadership Series, in which business dean Dr. Beck Taylor engages a guest in dialogue.
Nabers told the students that as they plan their futures, they should consider two dimensions of calling: being called to Jesus Christ, and a second one that connects to the work world.
“You will have a specific calling within the call to Jesus Christ, and if it’s what He called you to do, it will be sacred and honorable,” said Nabers, whose career includes private law practice and service as chairman of the board and chief executive officer of Protective Life Corporation, finance director for the State of Alabama and Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court. He is currently a shareholder of Maynard, Cooper & Gale, P.C. in Birmingham.
In his book, Nabers expands on eight virtues: humility, faith, hope, wisdom, courage, self-control, justice and love.
Courage, he said, can be in the form of physical valor, and also the act of doing the right thing. “Courage must be engraved in you,” he said.
About humility, he noted that it’s easy to be humble when the largeness of the universe is considered.
“Humility is understanding who you are in relation to God. You can be tough and aspire to excellence and still be humble,” he said, adding that it shouldn’t be used as an excuse for mediocrity. “Whatever you do, do in a way to glorify God.”
Wisdom, he said, carries a moral obligation to think clearly, but doesn’t relate as much to intelligence and book smarts as it does to getting “self” out of the way.
“You will succeed in the business world if you can get self out of the way,” said Nabers, who is an adjunct instructor at Samford’s Beeson Divinity School, where he teaches on Christian ethics.
Likewise, persons in the business world must have courage to take risks and when necessary, to face up to mistakes. “The greatest risk is to take no risk.”
Justice, he said, must be at the core of every business. “Businesses that don’t have justice and fairness at the core won’t last,” he said, adding that a step beyond justice is the element of “love.”
Any good business will play a win-win game, in which the virtues of love create a strong team.
The scripture in I Corinthians 13 describes the character of a strong team, and a business will be strong if it adheres to its essentials, said Nabers, advising his audience to memorize the passage “and let it govern you.”