I’ve long believed life isn’t an either/or choice but rather an array of both/and opportunities. One place where the either/or versus both/and orientation shows up in stark contrast is in working with people to produce outcomes, whether it’s at work, at home, in the community, etc.
Some individuals have an intense heads-down focus on delivering a finished task. Others prefer to build camaraderie and esprit de corps. A welcome few understand all work gets done by and through people. They practice the art and science of delivering solid results and developing/maintaining relationships by using their heads to manage and their hearts to lead.
For almost 18 months, a small group of Lead Change Group contributors have worked together to write a book about character-based leadership, The Character-Based Leader: Instigating a Leadership Revolution…One Person at a Time. It’s been a marathon of writing, editing, rewriting, planning, soul searching, research and collaboration. A task and relationship coup of monumental proportions (just think about 21 people writing one book). A both/and dance of fun and frustration spanning conference calls, emails, meetings and webinars. The end result is a published book and intact friendships.
Five tenets of knowing, being, and doing connected the authors on their book writing journey. These same five principles will serve well anyone who seeks to lead from the power of who they are.
5 tenets Character-based Leaders use to know, be, and do
1. Be self-aware. Getting in touch with what we fail to notice about ourselves and others is a crucial first step in becoming a head-and-heart-connected leader. Ask people for feedback, and actively listen to what they share. Look for patterns in the advice you’ve received over the years and act on what you discover.
2. Embrace ethical norms and behavioral ideals. One can do well, show kindness, be principled and still be as effective as all get-out. Dare to be honorable and kind and encourage those around you to do the same.
3. Engage the world and perform beyond self-interest. I’m fond of saying that to lead others, to think more of we and less of me, one must start with oneself. Every day, a character-based leader consciously balances the conflicts between selfish and selfless behavior.
4. Treat people as ends, not as means. While interviewing someone for an article about bad bosses, the interviewee told me her boss made her feel like a file cabinet, something utilitarian and easily replaced. Is that what you want your leadership legacy to be?
5. Envision both what is and what can be. A forward-thinking charter which engages people’s minds and moves their heart is a powerful combination, one that few individuals can resist. Leadership is a form of “power with” people, one that moves people beyond self-interest and interlocks them into a quest for the good of their group, organization, and/or society.
Five Questions for Reflection<
- Do my leadership practices include aligning people toward common goals, enlisting both their heads and their hearts, and then empowering them to act? If not, in what areas do I need to do better?
- Would people describe me as a transformative leader who raises others to higher levels of motivation and morality?
- Do I have a sense of moral courage, a willingness to stand up for what’s right even if doing so is unpopular?
- Am I willing to make personal sacrifices for the greater good? Would others say I perform beyond self-interest?
- Is my philosophy of success one that’s focused on money? Am I willing to do whatever I can get away with as long as I win?
Photo credit: Scenic Reflections