In my prior post, I proposed that leaders cannot rise above the limitations of their character. How a leader deals with the circumstances of life tells you many things about his character. Crisis doesn’t always mold character, but it certainly does reveal it. And adversity is a crossroads that makes a person choose one of two paths: character or compromise. So it takes real courage to have character. Where does this courage come from?
Courage begins with an inner battle. Every test you face as a leader begins within you. The test of courage is not different. All significant battles are waged within one’s self. Courage isn’t the absence of fear. It is having the power to let go of the familiar and forge ahead into new territory. Courage is fear that has said its prayers. Courage is doing what you’re afraid to do.
Civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. declared, “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands in times of challenge and controversy.” Great leaders take a stand when needed. Courage is making things right, not just smoothing them over. Courage deals with principle, not perception. If you don’t have the ability to see when to stand up and the conviction to do it, you’ll never be an effective leader. Your dedication to principle must remain stronger than your desire to appease others….
Over the years, I’ve come to realize that people approach the responsibility of leadership in many different ways. It’s not unlike the way some of us head into the crashing waves of the ocean.
I know that for me, if the water’s warm enough, I head right into the waters and as soon as I know I’m deep enough into the breakers I go head first and just get soaked. My wife Carol, on the other hand, prefers to simply let the water touch her toes, and after a while her ankles, and then eventually her knees and then perhaps 20 minutes later she may go fully under! (From where I see things, hers is the most painful way to experience it and yet, she hasn’t changed in the four decades that I’ve known her!)
I have found people embrace leadership in the same way. There are some that look carefully at the circumstances and then with little prodding make a dramatic leap head first into the opportunity or challenge that’s before them. They don’t care about the initial shock of pain or perceived responsibility, they just want to get on with it and get the job done….
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….