Character in leadership is of utmost importance. It has the power to build your business, relationships and reputation. It sets the tone for your team and your business, and is the bedrock of trust.
Just as character can lift you up, a lack thereof can swiftly take you down. Sadly, it only takes one mistake in character to ruin a business, a relationship or a reputation.
Becoming a leader of strong character comes down to living true to your core beliefs and values. These values help you determine what’s right and wrong, and are key to making wise decisions. Since our success is a composition of good decisions, having the character to lead based on core beliefs and values cannot be overemphasized.
The Strong Leader’s Character Creed
Living by these 10 character traits will provide a solid foundation for you as a leader:
1. Be honest.
2. Demonstrate integrity.
3. Keep promises.
4. Be loyal.
5. Be conscientious.
6. Pursue excellence.
7. Be kind and caring.
8. Esteem all people.
9. Be fair.
10. Be a good citizen.
Every day, we face choices that test our character. Some decisions are subject to immediate review by those with whom we live and work. In most cases, we will take the easy way out by making a choice that is acceptable to the majority. Then we go on with our life. These account for about 10% of the decisions we make.
What about the other 90% — the ones we make behind closed doors? These decisions speak volumes about our character as a leader.
True character is not something for which you can take a class. It is who you are when people are looking, but more especially when they are not. Being congruent means you are the same person regardless of the circumstances or who is watching. I have met many bosses who have no understanding of this concept.
I used to think some people were strong in character and some were not, and that was just the way things were. But after dealing with issues of character in my work with leaders for several years, I have a new understanding. Character can be influenced by our surroundings, our experiences and those with whom we associate. And while good character cannot be taught, it is something you can practice and improve upon over time.
Becoming A Person Of Strong Character
These are some steps to follow:
1. Surround Yourself With People Of Strong Character
Bad company corrupts good character. Think about the five people in your life with whom you spend the most time. Are they people of strong character? Do they demonstrate the type of leadership you wish to emulate? If not, expand your circle to include people of this caliber. And if you can’t find those types of people, you can always read about them. There is power in the books you read.
2. Seek Truth And Favor Reason Over Emotional Impulses
It is easy to be biased or prejudiced by emotions. That is part of human nature. But don’t allow yourself to get overwhelmed by fear or sadness. Learn to master your feelings, and avoid letting anything other than common sense and sound logic dictate the decisions you make.
3. Be Content But Not Complacent
It is important to appreciate your own values and be happy with what you do have. It is good to focus on and be grateful for the positives in your life. However, that does not mean you can become stagnant. Laziness never achieves anything. Stay focused on the next high point and do the work to get there.
4. Exercise Your Empathy
Sometimes you have to engage in tough conversations. It is easy to try and sidestep them or put them off, but don’t. Instead, face these conversations with empathy and action. Don’t sympathize. That is an emotional but passive reaction. Instead, you need to extend yourself, engage as needed, and do something to resolve the issue.
5. Excel Wherever You Are
Confusion is a character killer. Set the standard. You can’t expect others to perform at a higher level than you are willing to provide. This does not mean you have to be an expert in everything. It just means you do your best, no matter the task.
These are the practices that will build strong character and give you the experience you need to be a great leader. Are you practicing the habits that will strengthen your character as a leader?
Dave Ferguson is “The Leaders’ Coach”, an internationally recognized executive leadership coach, speaker, facilitator, and author. Are you interested in talking to Dave about coaching or having Dave speak to inspire and motivate your team? “ASK COACH DAVE” at 704-907-0171 or at Dave@AskCoachDave.com.