There are more articles written, catchy names, labels and tags given various leadership approaches than I can count. Why? Because there are so many different “takes” on what is required, what works and what will get the end results desired. Based on that fact it would seem logical to conclude that there is no ONE magic answer just a lot of opinions. But the mere fact that there is SO much being written, said and discussed on a regular basis tells me there is a dire need to understand it and FIND IT. In that quest, let’s discuss in simple terms our take on leadership and the attributes to seek in order to achieve greatness. Let’s start with one of what we like to call the Three C’s of Leadership, Character.
Character is defined in a number of ways and possessing multiple attributes we identify as being a part of someone with “high character”. My preferred style is…keep it simple. Character is much more than just a bullet point list of things. And that list can be huge based on all the articles, research and opinions out there. Here is our “Top Five List” of attributes noticed and needed in good to great leaders.
People that seem to lead best almost always have a high level of self-awareness. They know what makes them “tick”. They are clear on what motivates them. They understand their own personal style of communication, action, etc. And they don’t try to be something they are not! A KEY point indeed. The great leaders in today’s world seem to be comfortable in their own skin. And they are acutely aware of what their own strengths and weaknesses are for sure. Those same leaders learn to just be themselves, in their own way. In other words, be genuine. After all, there is more than one way to get to where you want to get. If you want to be a leader, understand what your own style and tendencies are and you and your teams will be better served. Nobody likes to follow a phony or worse yet, discover later that the behaviors they had been experiencing were all a fa�ade. Discover who you are and BE YOURSELF first and foremost.
Integrity, in the view of most experts, goes hand in hand with being deeply self-aware. Not only are people with high integrity self-aware, they are keenly in touch with and aware of those around them and how they relate to them. They walk the high moral ground, practicing what anyone would consider good ethics. They do their best every day to practice good judgment and thoughtful approaches to the challenges of the day.
Being trustworthy as a leader goes on hand in hand with what we have just outlined, being genuine, self-aware and of high integrity at all times. Without those qualities how could we possibly trust them? True leaders exemplifying this characteristic are not manipulators trying to make them look good and sometimes throwing their team members under the bus. They take the fall when it is theirs to take. And often even when it is not. And they do not misrepresent the facts in order to get an edge. They speak the truth. Sounds so simple, yet this seems to be something more difficult to find these days. It takes courage to embody this attribute, but it’s worth it.
Leaders of high character must show both an open heart and an open mind. They know to let their guard down and in doing so, this lets other people in. As a result, people trust them more with their opinions, ideas, feedback, challenges and yes, even criticisms. This in turn makes the leader more in touch and aware of what is going on with their business, their team, their industry and their colleagues. These leaders foster an environment of openness, exchange and sharing that is infectious.
Lead by Example
Character-based leaders many, many times lead by example. They don’t just “talk the talk” they “walk the walk” of what they want, need and expect from others. When hard work, extra hours and that additional “umph” is needed they are there doing their part in that. When they are asking for honest feedback, they give nothing less in return. In general, whatever a leader wants in others they should be willing and able to give in return. In the words of one of my favorite bosses in my past, never ask or expect someone to do something you are no willing to do yourself. Seems like a great message that ties all the other attributes we have discussed here into play. You don’t necessarily have to know HOW to do everything, that’s unrealistic. But the willingness to dive in, to learn and do what’s needed when it’s needed is invaluable. It keeps real leaders in touch and approachable. That is a much needed thing today more than ever!
Lastly, if these basics of Character in Leaders as outlined here is in place the absolute best outcome of all occurs. Your team and all you come in contact with R-E-S-P-E-C-T you as a person. With that respect, great things are possible!
To quote an article from Forbes, “Leaders do not command excellence, they build excellence. Excellence is “being all you can be” within the bounds of doing what is right for your organization. To reach excellence you must first be a leader of good character. You must do everything you are supposed to do. Organizations will not achieve excellence by figuring out where it wants to go, then having leaders do whatever they have to in order to get the job done, and then hope their leaders acted with good character. This type of thinking is backwards. Pursuing excellence should not be confused with accomplishing a job or task. When you do planning, you do it by backwards planning. But you do not achieve excellence by backwards planning. Excellence starts with leaders of good and strong character who engage in the entire process of leadership. And the first process is being a person of honorable character. ”