Who Not What


Stop teaching leaders what to do.
Teach them who to be.

Four steps toward character based leadership

First, determine who you want to be as an organization. Forget about what you do. That comes later. Determine if you want to be innovative or “steady as she goes,” for example. Identify words that describe the best you; exciting, caring, trustworthy, systematic, or transformative.

Second, determine people-qualities that express who you want to be organizationally. Forget about communication skills, culture building, and organizational charts. What qualities in people help your organization become who it must be?

Innovative organizations need courage more than tenderness. Trustworthy organizations look for steadiness in people. All organizations, in reality, need courageous, steady people. It’s a matter of focus and degree.

Third, in order to develop character based leaders, identify behaviors that express character. Courage might be associated with speaking truth to superiors. Honesty could be tied to owning mistakes.

Fourth, tie all skill development to character qualities. Describe courage, selflessness, or innovation in ways that express who your organization must become.

Develop character based leaders
by connecting skills to character.

Let’s say you want to be an exceptional service organization. You’re looking for selfless qualities, not big egos.

You might identify gregarious, kind, and flexible as three character qualities that help your organization be who it should be. Flesh out character with behaviors. Determine three behaviors that express flexibility, for example. Or, describe what kindness looks like in your organization?

Problem solving:

Character based organizations  develop character based leaders when they solve problems by focusing first on character then on skills.

Train people who to be before telling them what to do.

Suppose an employee isn’t responding to others in a timely manner. Focus on respect and courtesy before explaining time management techniques.

How can organizations tie character to skills?