Today we address a very important segment of our leadership lexicon. We have covered many of the elements from the Sustained Leadership WBS and today we are digging deeper into the element of Character. You may recall that we have reviewed the topic of character as both a major heading of the work breakdown structure and as an element that is an Essential Leadership Journey Checkpoint.
Character is King
The concept of character and its importance in leadership cannot be overstated. A person without good character cannot, emphasize CANNOT, succeed as a sustained leader. Your lack of character will be found out and it will result in the loss of all of your followers. Think about the major business news stories you have recently read where the head of the company, or one of its senior people, was found to be embezzling, or hiding safety concerns, or masking financial transactions, or any of a great number of actions that result in a breach of trust and sometimes become a form of selfish self-dealing. And often they are crimes.
In Sustained Leadership WBS I provide the following definition:
WBS Dictionary: Your values reflect what is in your heart. Too often people are not honest with themselves and very often this is not by any conscious intent. They have simply fallen into a comfort zone from which they have not considered extracting themselves. Your values govern your actions, so a hard look at your actions and reactions will provide a broad window on your values. When a person exhibits sustained leadership values it can be seen that these values are centered outside of their selfish interests. They are focused on others, not on themselves. They reflect no self-serving or self-deceiving (18.104.22.168) traits. They are honest (1.1) with themselves and others. And they incorporate those values into their mission (See 4.2.1.)
Reputation and Character
Let us first consider the differences and similarities between reputation and character. Your reputation is what people think of you. Your character is what you truly are. Beside each of these are possible fictions – what you believe people think of you and what you believe your character to be. It is important that a sustained leader know themselves. This is truly a deep introspection of all aspects of themselves. Your failure to engage in this, and to get input from those around you who know you and see you in a variety of contexts, will, not “may” but “will,” result in a derailment of your leadership journey. You cannot live in a fiction, and complete honesty removes the fantasy. Very often it is a form of hubris, or pride, that derails a person who holds a leadership position. They fail to deal with the fact that their reputation is not good and it is a far more accurate representation of their character than what they think (or wishfully hope) their character is. Dealing with the truth is often hard.
There are a few who are excessively harsh on themselves, and this can create another whole form of derailment through the loss of self-confidence. Such things as depression or other mental illness matters can cause you to feel a lack of self-confidence. These situations, however, are far less common than the boastful narcissist who believes the world follows their commands and they are personally above or exempt from man’s laws and natural law. These are two extremes across a very long spectrum. Both are certainly paths to perdition! If you do not think you have any issues with pride, you probably do.
Your Unique Values
How do you assess your true values? A good place to start is to ask yourself what precisely you believe in. Have you ever sat down and drafted a list of your beliefs? Try it. Make a list of 7 to 10 things that complete the sentence, “I believe…” Perhaps you believe that the plight of so many animals needs attention. Maybe you believe that the still-prevalent slave trade needs to be exposed. Perhaps you are more focused on the stability of marriage, the rights of those with a different sexual orientation, or the tragedy of pedophilia. Many years ago there was a t-shirt that was emblazoned with “Everyone should believe in something. I believe I’ll have another beer.”
Your values form your statement of beliefs. Your set of beliefs is uniquely yours. You might agree with someone on the plight of pets, and disagree on whether church attendance is a good thing. It doesn’t matter. Your beliefs are uniquely yours. The important part is that you actually KNOW your beliefs.
Time, Talent, and Treasure
Here is another good barometer. You have a set of resources made available to you. These fall under the three categories of time, talent, and treasure. What do you spend time doing? Do you volunteer at a homeless shelter, or are you perfecting your level in a video game? Are you a good vocalist? Do you sing the national anthem at sporting events? Have you considered volunteering to read books on tape for the blind? You might not consider yourself a “rich” person in terms of your bank account. Have you done a detailed study to understand where the money you have is going? Most people have not. I suggest to you that if you take an inventory or do an audit of your time, talents, and treasures, you will begin to get a crystal clear view of your values the things that are important to your heart. Be ready. It might not be a pretty picture.
We will be exploring the 8 sub-elements of Values in future posts. This deep and rich subject bears directly on your ability to lead and sustain your leadership role. Do not approach this as something you can quickly gloss over because you already have this nailed. It is highly improbable and you may need to spend some time in section 1.3.3 on humility. Take the first steps today and consider your beliefs. Write them down. We will return to them in future posts.
This material is derived from the book Sustained Leadership WBS and is found in section 1.2.1 Values (Heart). Buy the book here.
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