Leadership is about character - who you are not what you
do. And today when leadership is needed
at all organizational levels, it is
critical that leadership character be developed and enhanced in all
individuals. It is those with
leadership character who will contribute to others in powerful ways and help
their organizations achieve bottom line results and long-lasting success.
But today’s leadership is hard work. Even those accustomed to power and
responsibility will have to lead in ways that support and bring forth
leadership from all employees. And
those who have not yet accepted the challenge of leadership will have to assume
a higher level of responsibility for their company’s success. Those who succeed at leadership, whatever
their level, will have developed strong leadership character.
As an aid to leadership development, this guide outlines the
core qualities that create the kind of underlying character all leaders
need. Notice that integrity is the
foundation of leadership. Without
integrity, leadership behavior rings hollow.
Also notice that the leadership scale is balanced between the qualities
of respect and responsibility. When
there is respect in an organization, everyone feels a sense of partnership,
equality and fairness. When responsibility
is prevalent, each person is willing to take initiative and act for the good of
the entire organization.
Character is grounded in integrity. Leaders must be honest,
credible and completely trustworthy. A person with integrity doesn't twist
facts for personal advantage, is willing to stand up for what is right, keeps
all promises, and can be counted on to always tell the truth. A person with
integrity makes sound decisions, especially when faced with moments of
indecision, temptation and conflict. Without integrity, no leader can be
Respect helps create a culture of partnership
and teamwork. Leaders who demonstrate respect show an unconditional high
regard for others, acknowledging their values and people, regardless of
their behaviors. Respect comes through in all situations, even during
times of conflict or criticism. Leaders must develop and refine the following
qualities of respect: Empathy, Lack of Blame, Humility, and Emotional
Leaders earn trust by relating to everyone in the
organization with understanding. Empathetic leaders create strong bonds
and are seen as less political. A person who demonstrates the core quality
- Understands others' points of view including
those that are different from his or her own.
- Shows genuine concern for others.
- Listens with understanding.
- Exhibits respect even when he or she has
nothing to gain from the relationship.
Lack of Blame
Good leaders reflect honestly on their own behavior
and can admit their mistakes. They don't become defensive and blame
others when things go wrong. Rather than spending time assigning blame,
leaders spend time fixing problems. A person who demonstrates the core
quality of lack of blame:
- Admits fault when appropriate.
- Doesn't look for a scapegoat in a crisis.
- Spends time fixing problems, not assigning
- Avoids “us vs. them” thinking.
Leaders with humility shun pompous and arrogant
behavior. They realize that we are all fallible – a combination of strengths
and weaknesses. People who demonstrate humility don't think less of themselves;
they just think more of others. A person with the core quality of humility:
- Listens to others with an open mind.
- Doesn't brag or name-drop.
- Clearly sees and admits his or her limitations
- Shows vulnerability without fear.
More than 2000 years ago, Epictetus said, “It is
not the facts and events that upset man but the view he takes of them.”
Leaders who have developed emotional mastery recognize that. Controlling
anger may be the most important aspect of emotional mastery for those
in powerful positions. Outbursts of anger can quickly destroy a sense
of organizational equity and partnership. A person with the core quality
of emotional mastery:
- Says what he or she thinks but never berates
- Stays calm even in crisis situations.
- Doesn't let anxiety interfere with public
speaking or other critical tasks.
- Reflects before reacting and consciously
chooses an appropriate response.
Great leaders accept full responsibility
for personal success and for the success of projects, teams, and the entire
organization. Becoming responsible requires developing and refining the
following core qualities of Accountability, Self Confidence, Courage,
and Focus on the Whole.
Leaders who are accountable do what needs to be
done, no matter where in the organization they have to go. They never
say, “It's not my job.” They hold themselves 100% accountable for making
relationships work. They don't say, “Well, I'll go halfway if they will.”
Accountable leaders ask, “What can I do?” not, “Why don't they…” A person
with the core quality of accountability:
- Takes the initiative to get things done.
- Is not afraid to hold others accountable.
- Crosses departmental boundaries to help
with important projects.
- Takes personal responsibility for organizational
Self-confidence allows people to feel that they
are equal to others, even when others are in positions of much greater
formal power. Self-confident leaders recognize the value of building that
same self-confidence in others throughout their organizations and aren't
threatened by confident followers. This widespread self-confidence builds
a sense of partnership and helps to maximize energy and efforts at all
levels. A person with the core quality of self-confidence:
- Has a self-assured bearing.
- Exhibits flexibility and a willingness
- Gives credit to others easily.
- Tells the truth without fear.
Leaders with courage assert themselves and take
risks. They ask forgiveness rather than permission and try even though
they might fail. These leaders risk conflict to air their ideas but balance
that with respect, which makes constructive conflict possible. A person
with the core quality of courage:
- Champions new or unpopular ideas.
- Talks to others, not about them, when
there is a problem.
- Accepts feedback and truly hears what
- Takes the ball and runs with it, even
when there are obstacles.
Focus on the whole
Leaders who focus on the big picture think in terms
of what's good for the entire organization, not in terms of what's good
for their own team or department. They have an understanding of and enthusiasm
for the business as well as an understanding of their industry. They consider
the implications of entire projects and commit to outcomes that work best
for their customers rather than just focusing on their piece of the project
a person who demonstrates the core quality of focus on the whole:
- Realizes he or she represents the company
to its customers.
- Understands how work in individual areas
affects the entire project and the whole organization.
- Gathers information from all stakeholders
when making decisions.
- Shares information throughout the company
and understands the value of a knowledgeable workforce.
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