The Secret to Your Future
Your character is your future.
Leadership is first about character then skill.
- Behavior you compel yourself to do.
- Attitudes and actions you resort to when stressed.
- The way you act when no one is looking.
The 6 essential character traits of successful leaders:
- Acknowledgement that you need others.
- Openness to new ideas.
- Awareness and acceptance of personal limitation and frailty.
- Consistency between commitment and follow through.
- No hidden agendas – transparency of intention.
- Authenticity – opinion reflects personally held values.
- Choose language that builds up when tempted to tear down.
- Withhold personal attack and extend forgiveness.
- Explore options even when you think you know.
- Bravery to stand alone.
- Willingness to state unpopular opinions and speak truth to power.
- Resolve to address difficult topics with kindness.
- Commitment to seek the highest good of others and organizations.
- Lead with empathy and compassion.
- Hold people to their highest potential.
- Keep long-term perspectives in view.
- Belief that organizational mission is worthy of grit.
- Confidence in proven teammates to deliver results.
“Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, vision cleared, ambition inspired, and success achieved.” Helen Keller
Knowledge comes from books
but you find what you lack in the trials of life.
Character development in others:
- Make character part of organizational conversation.
- Allow others to face the consequences of their choices. Over-protection creates weakness.
- Provide connection with people of character.
- Offer help but don’t fulfill another’s responsibilities.
“You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated. In fact, it may be necessary to encounter the defeats, so you can know who you are, what you can rise from, how you can still come out of it.” Maya Angelou
What is on your list of essential leadership character traits?
How might leaders develop character in themselves and/or others?
Character and credibility are an absolute must for any leader. People have to buy into the leader before they will buy into the leader’s vision.
Absolutely! Who do you want on your team? People with or without character?
Great list. I would suggest adding one more characteristic – ACCOUNTABILITY. Too many so-called leaders become exceedingly narcissistic when their decisions do not play out as originally planned or stated.
Thanks Jim. I wonder if the willingness to be held accountable might fit in the humility bucket. The willingness to hold others accountable might fit in courage and/or love? Thanks for your insights.
ACCOUNTABILITY needs to stand alone as a personal characteristic. Working in the private sector for 40+ years, I am more drawn to an ACCOUNTABLE leader than a leader with humility, courage or love. The Wall Street Journal is replete with examples of so-called leaders not being accountable for their decisions or behaviors because too often there are no consequences for their lack of personal accountability. Leaders do not like the word ACCOUNTABLE because it requires them to have a stake in their decisions.
Thanks for circling back Jim. I feel your passion and am enriched by your insights. Much appreciated.
When we come to a place in which we can see past hardships/trials for the insight which they offer into our own self, we’ve really opened a door for great growth.. Too often we (I) bog down fearing more pain, searching for the short-cut out, worse still finding what’s wrong in others before we have resolved the wrongs in our-self.
Thanks Ken. You’re holding up a mirror. During hardship the decision to open up rather than close down makes all the difference. Your comment feels like the voice of experience.
…in LF language 🙂
Excellent, Dan. In the last couple of posts you focused on goals, dreams, strategic planning–all the things we want, where we want to go, how to “see” our visions-as-reality.
In this post, you give us the character traits and qualities required to get us there. Since you asked for others, here’s a couple more: Concentration, proficiency, self-respect, courage, self-assurance, creativity, perseverance, energy, self-improvement, speech, decisiveness, foresight, composure, interest-in-people, loyalty, self-discipline, calm, grit, industriousness, self-starting, et al.
What’s left…except to “affirm” what we see as possible for ourselves, and to believe what we affirm. We must believe what we do not YET see, and our reward for our belief is to SEE what we believe. Very nice, Dan. Beautiful even.
Thanks Books. You dumped a bucket load of ideas. Stuff to keep my head busy for days. I enjoy this line of thinking. As Hesselbien says, “Leadership is a matter of how to be not how to do.”
Whomever Hesselbien is–and I can see he is a bright guy–he has nothing over YOU, for at least a year back or more–YOU said: “Leadership is about continually becoming, discovering, completing, and fulfilling.”
Unfortunately, I just copied and pasted that one sentence, but cannot recall the reference or context. Sorry about that.
Fantastic!!! In a presentation to university students this past week, I discussed the difference between reputation and character. Two very different things. Thank you Dan!!!
Thanks Bob. Interesting distinction. I can see where character precedes and is foundational to reputation. Interesting.
Yes, I believe strong character should lead to having a great reputation. But…… someone without any character can fool others and have a great reputation. Eventually, they will be found out but you can fool them for a while. Likewise, someone with sterling character can be falsely accused and have their reputation destroyed.
Thanks for teasing this idea out. Very helpful.
Reputation is what people THINK you are. Character is who you really are…………..
KaPow. That’s kicking it.
Courage for sure, risk-taking and love. Talk about and mention seen behaviors from each other and seek for different behaviors to learn from. Love it!
Good (early) morning Dan,
With a few swipe’s with your pen, you have masterfully articulated in layman’s term’s, what it takes to be a Character-Based Leader.
Even though the concepts are clear and simple. When we routinely apply these characteristics, our personal & professional lives become more fulfilling as we realize the ‘true’ satisfaction we feel from helping others succeed.
There’s something wonderfully satisfying about lifting up the people around you to help them to realize their full potential. Like the saying goes, “we all stand a bit taller when we lift another up on our shoulders.”
To those leaders in the ‘twilight’ of our careers, may I be so bold to submit, “we may very well be at the prime of your professional lives.” Now’s the time to (play it forward)., ‘each one teach one’. When we lift people up and help others to realize their full potential, “EVERYONE WINS!”
Do the rite thing, PUT PEOPLE 1st. When you do, you will unlock the immeasurable power of people coming together. It is wonderfully satisfying to watch people pouring their heads, hearts, and hands into the lives of others. “Isn’t that really what life is all about?”
“Happy Monday my friend.”
Good morning SGT. I see you were up before me! Thanks for your comment. The character quality that comes to mind is generosity. Definitely something to add to the list.
I am grateful to have been able to read Dan’s topic post today and all the many wonderful replies. Thank you, everybody who took the time to share and contribute. There is a great amount of leadership and wisdom promoting content here. Have a great day and thanks again.
Thank you, Dan! Your posts are always very timely for me!
I might consider adding resilience to your list of successful leader traits. One of my professors defined resilience as “a condition of being whole and showing up that way.” Successful leaders take the stewardship of their life and service to others seriously and thus are willing to do the disciplined, hard work of getting where they need or are called to be in order to effectively lead.
Something I sense retrofits quite nicely into Dan’s essential character traits is that of trust. I believe that trust is always earned and not given when it comes to leadership. I sense that trust is a tangible trait of someone you want to follow…not because you have to…
Great post, Dan. Everything begins with character and how we develop and apply each of its positive components. If we keep communicating this, and enough people pick up the banner, it will have a huge impact. http://wp.me/p2k440-6a
Many “great” leaders show greatness when people are looking … but behind closed doors it’s like a Jeckle and Hyde … STRESS is the key litmus test to one’s true character. Look at toxic work environments. Your character is tested and quickly exposed.