Ask any leadership guru around and they will be quick to tell you that not all leaders are born. The majority of the most respected leaders are those that were able to develop themselves in order to become who they are today. This goes beyond just gaining the educational knowledge and years of experience in the workforce. In fact, one of the most important attributes that an individual must possess is not the position title, a great office or an impressive set of credentials. It is character. The character of an individual is basically who the person is. Leadership gurus all over the world would agree that the main thing that separates a true leader from the rest is the character he or she possesses. Below are just some of the reasons why they consider character as one of the most important — if not the most important — attributes that a leader must possess.
Character is knowing your values
We know that in order to be a leader of people, you need to know your people: Who they are, what drives them and what makes them click. As you need to know your people, you also need to know yourself. What makes you click? What drives you? We need to take time during our careers and our lives to sit back and think about what and who we are and as importantly . . . why. Without this base knowledge of ourselves, it is very difficult to drive our careers forward, to drive ourselves day-to-day and especially to work with others. To understand ourselves at this level, we are challenged to understand our core values. Core values can help people to know what is right from wrong; they can help companies to determine if they are on the right path and fulfilling their business goals; and they create an unwavering and unchanging guide. Core values should become the guiding principles for each of us personally and for our organisations. Core values need to be articulated clearly in writing and tested through daily decision-making.
Defining your core values and living by them should not be a casual, “wing-it” exercise. This requires a concentrated, focussed effort and a defined follow-through.
Character builds influence
In order to propel a group of individuals to be united towards a particular goal or vision, a leader must be able to influence people. In today’s society, it is not enough for a person to be given a fancy title in order to do so. For them to follow a person and trust that person would be able to lead them towards positive growth, development and change, they would need to believe in that he or she is someone worth believing in and trusting in. In order for this to happen, the individual must be able to exhibit integrity and confidence — attributes that make up the character of an individual.
Right character, right treatment
It has been said that the success or failure of an organisation or a business lies on the leaders that are positioned within the organisation to lead the rest of the people. Individuals who possess what could be considered as questionable traits and characteristics can abuse their position and the people that follow them. As a result, this could spell disaster for the entire organisation or business. On the other hand, a leader with an admirable character would take into consideration first and foremost what would be in the best interest of the majority. This would then lead him or her to make the right decisions that would, in turn, benefit the entire organisation as a whole.
Character leads to improvement
Another reason why character is crucial among all leaders is that this would prevent them from being closed from suggestions from both their employees and senior management. Having the right traits that make up your character would allow you to take suggestions and comments with a grain of salt, apologise when necessary and give value to your subordinates and senior management. This eventually gains the trust and confidence of those who are below you and above you and as such, it minimises any incident of resistance and protest occurring.
Character leads to credibility
Unfortunately, with the manner in which we are going about our business in Zimbabwe, nothing in our conduct seem to measure up to credible personalities. In the midst of unexpected events and stressful situations that characterise our environment, our moral compass has been hit to the core and our character has been shredded to pieces.
Credibility builds one’s integrity. For one to be of integrity, it takes having the courage to do the right thing, no matter what the consequences will be. It is like the roots of a tree which although underground and not visible yet big, they provide support, strength, stability, nourishment and growth to the entire tree. A person with integrity is balanced and complete with a high character. The greater your integrity, the more credibility you will have and the more trust you will inspire. Imagine if this character reflect in your business.
Character builds professionalism
More often, many of us “do our best” to do the right thing — when it’s easy, when it’s convenient, or perhaps because others are watching. Imagine the very real personal and professional impact borne of the simple act of unreservedly embracing a rare, refreshing and relentless commitment to “doing the right thing” irrespective of the three factors raised above. Imagine promises always delivered. Imagine strength of character “unplugged.” Imagine the professional influence you’ll wield to those around you. At the center of every man’s soul is that innate ability to doing things right. Imagine when you can readily distinguish yourself “from the rest” by way of genuine good-faith business dealings founded upon these core values?
How does your current modus operandi fare against such an unbridled approach to strength of character? In which direction is your “moral compass” pointing? What does your compass reveal? Are you among the “ethical elite” or do you come short in any respect? Now cast aside your opinion. How would you be judged by those who know you the best — your friends, family and professional colleagues? Will they tell you — and can you handle the truth?
Mandeya is a senior executive training consultant and communication in management advisor, a personal coach in leadership and professional development with the Institute of Leadership Research and Development. You can contact him on firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com. Views contained herein are personal.