[tweetmeme]A Washington politician is caught in a public lie about her past, a Pastor resigns his prominent position when his affair with a married staff member becomes public, a young Production Manager repeatedly fails to follow through on his commitments to people in his department. Do these situations have anything in common and what do they have to do with leadership?
What each of these situations have in common is character. Do you believe that character has anything to do with Leadership? Leadership traits are a popular topic these days. Many people are fascinated with the topic of leadership because they long to be led by good leaders, they want to be good leaders, and because truly great leaders are rare. You don’t have to look further than the local bookstore to find countless books on the topic. Many blogs and LinkedIn group discussions are devoted to leadership. One LinkedIn discussion asked group members to define leadership in one-word. There were 1130 responses over the next 30 days. Alex Putman summarized the responses with 14 terms in his Social T-rex blog. Surprisingly, character was not on the list. “The Book on Leadership” by John MacArthur does not list character as one of the twenty-six characteristics of a true leader. MacArthur does however address character in chapter 1 even calling it “the one thing that matters most in leadership” on page 4. When Dan Rockwell conducted a similar survey on his Leadershipfreak blog, character and integrity tied for first.
So why is character on top of one list and completely missing from others? Character alone does not make one a great leader which may keep this trait from making some lists. In my mind, character is a pre-requisite to being a great leader. You cannot have some of the traits of leadership without character. Being trustworthy as an example, requires having some character because it is one of the things people of character do. Character is not something great leaders do though, rather it is something they have. Most great leaders are known for what they do. They influence, they motivate, they communicate well, they get results. So while character is needed to be a good leader, it may not be at the front of your mind when you consider the critical leadership traits.
So why is character an important leadership trait if it’s not something leaders do and people often forget about it? Character is a critical leadership trait because people lose the credibility to lead as their character erodes. The politician loses credibility when caught in lies. Unfortunately, this is prevalent enough that there is great cynicism towards Washington, but it is still true. The Pastor who is caught in an affair resigns because he is unable to lead his church under those circumstances. The Production Manager that does not follow through on commitments demotivates his department and gives others reasons not to follow through on their commitments.
Those of you who are young leaders or aspire to leadership, I urge you to strive for character. Lead by example. Follow through. Do the little things well. Your people are watching, even when the boss is not.
[tweetmeme]”The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”
~ Martin Luther King, Jr.
Also please see 3 Critical Leadership Traits: Character, Vision & Passion
Another leadership blog: Inspirational Leadership & Values
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