Leaders cannot rise above the limitations of their character. And yet, while a leadership position doesn’t give a person character, character can give him a leadership position. How a leader deals with the circumstances of life tells you many things about his character. Crisis doesn’t necessarily mold character, but is certainly does reveal it. Adversity is a crossroads that makes a person choose one of two paths: character or compromise. It takes real courage to have character. Every time a leader chooses character, he becomes stronger, even if that choice brings negative consequences. The development of character is at the heart of our development as leaders. Character is the foundation on which a leader builds his or her life. It all begins with character, because leadership operates on the basis of trust. People will follow a leader only so far as they trust him or her.
Every leader must know the following about character
- Character is More Walk Than Talk – Anyone can say he has integrity, but action is the real indicator of character. Your character determines who you are. Who you are determines how you see and think about things. How you see things determines what you do. That’s why you can never separate a leader’s character from his actions. If a leader’s actions and intentions are continually working against each other, then look to his character to find out why.
- Character is a Choice – We have no control over a lot of things in life. We don’t get to choose our parents. We don’t select the location or circumstances of our birth and upbringing. We don’t get to pick our natural talents or IQ. But we do choose our character. In fact, we create it every time we make choices – to cop-out or dig out of a tough situation, to bend the truth or stand under the weight of it. As you live your life and make your choices, you are continuing to create your character.
- Character Brings Followers – True leadership involves other people. Followers do not trust leaders whose character they know to be flawed, and they will not continue following them. If you think you’re leading and no one is following, then you’re only taking a walk. As you lead others at home, at work, and in the community, recognize that your character is your most important asset. The respect that leadership must have requires that one’s ethics be without question. A leader not only stays above the line between right and wrong, he also stays well clear of the “gray areas.”
- Character Requires Courage – It’s easy to see in war heroes, but it’s also present in most great leaders in business, government, and the church. Wherever you see significant progress in an organization, you know that the leader made courageous decisions. It has been said that the most striking thing about effective leaders is how little they have in common. What one swears by, another warns against. But one thing always stands out: the willingness to risk.
In my next post, I will explore the relationship between character and courage – the willingness to risk.