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Why Talented Leaders Fail

You can “succeed” at leadership and still fail. We all know leaders who achieved great results but acted like asses in the process.

How you show up is more important than talent.

You probably spend too much time developing skills and not enough developing character.

The most important thing about leadership is character – followed by talent and skill.

Skill and talent are obstacles until they’re combined with character.

Resume virtues or eulogy virtues*:

“Resume virtues are the skills you bring to the marketplace.” David Brooks

When you’re quiet in the grave, no one will say, “She knew how to run great meetings.” They won’t say, “He was great at pressuring people to work hard and stay late.”

Eulogy virtues are a matter of character, not talent, strength, or skill.

Three selves:

You have three selves.

  1. Aspirational self. This is how you would like to show up.
  2. Actual self. This is how you actually show up.
  3. Dark self. This is how you don’t want to show up, but sometimes do.

Focus on character when you think about your aspirational self, not simply skills.


Humility isn’t a talent, skill, or strength. It’s character.

It’s ridiculous to say, “I have the talent of humility.”

  1. Love – seeking the highest good of others.
  2. Candor – speaking the truth in ways that are useful to others.
  3. Humility – leading with an other-centric approach.
  4. Respect – seeing strength in others.
  5. Generosity – using your talent and resources to advantage others.

The things that make you remarkable go beyond talent to the practice of humility and love.

Character doesn’t require talent. It’s not a skill.

Character is consistency of behavior.

Character is predictable responses. A leader with character is predictable. You know how they will respond before they do anything.

(I listed five character traits. Try activating one each day this week.)

How might you show up to seek the highest good of others today? Practice candor tomorrow, and so on.

How do you define the five character traits I listed above?

*Resume virtues or eulogy virtues comes from The Road to Character by David Brooks.

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