Are You a Character-Based Leader?

Being a leader is not brought on by a title, or planted in our DNA at birth. Being a leader is a learned skill, mostly by experience ("on-the-job" training).

Who is a leader?

Being a leader is not brought on by a title, or planted in our DNA at birth. Being a leader is a learned skill, mostly by experience ("on-the-job" training). In a company, most people transition into leadership roles because of their successful performance at lower levels. Others are driven to become leaders for personal gain. While others slip in and out of leadership roles and they may not even recognize when they are leading others. So allow me to start by defining leadership?

I like Dr. John Kotter’s definition of a leader. He is Professor of Leadership, Emeritus at the Harvard Business School and he points out that a leader is one who copes with change and aligns others to engage and move forward in a new direction (change). Note that this definition did not state that a person’s position or title determines leadership. He does not even state that leadership is a state of mind. The only qualifier of being a leader is that the person can effect change with other people. The “other” could be individuals, small groups of people, or even a multi-national corporation. Under this definition, who is a leader becomes very clear to me. Every one of us are leaders at some level. We all create and manage change regularly throughout our lives. We all are leaders!

Character-Based Leadership? What’s that?

There are two aspects of leadership. The first is Competence. The Competence factor is the summation of our education, cognitive growth and development, and the collective experiences of life and career. We dive into growing our competence with the dedication of a world-class athlete, and we focus on improving our perceived shortcomings in this area to ensure success.

The second aspect of leadership is Character. The misnomer with most leaders is that their character is a minor function in their leadership success. The character list typically lands on things like integrity, honesty, and being ethical. These aspects of our character are Important elements for sure. But there is more to our character than the standard list. The truth is, our character matters most when we are in leadership. Dr. John Townsend puts it this way-

leadership has its demands: running the organization, making sure people are in their proper places, connecting with them, dealing with finances, sales, marketing, administration, and so forth. You need strong fiber! A person of character is one who connects well; is clear in her responsibilities; can handle problems and negative realities; and understands her role and mission. [1]

Dr. Townsend continues, “Character is best developed over time, and it creates a leader who lives in hope.” [1]

Therefore, Leadership is like building a skyscraper. The foundation is the leader's depth of internal strength (character) which allows for the effective handling of reality (good and bad). On top of this foundation, the leader anchors their tower of competence. The taller the tower, the deeper the character foundation must be.

Is your competence skyscraper on a solid footing? Imagine the level of success if only we would put as much effort into developing the character side of leadership as much as we vigorously do for our competence side!

Want to learn more?

Contact us to learn about the growth model of Character-Based Leadership!