Character-based Leadership in Real Life

by  Mike Henry  |  Self Leadership

My dad showed me that being a great manager is high calling. More than that, he taught me the importance of being who-you-are and leading from the strength of who-you-are. That’s character-based leadership in real life.  His name is Jack Henry, and I posted some more personal thoughts over at mikehenrysr.wordpress.com.

A great manager helps people get more than a paycheck from their job. A great manager helps people build a life. They must not allow the company or the job to take more from employees than it gives them back. However they also counter the tendency to let slacker employees detract from the value and quality of the product created by the team. Great managers manage the balance between profit and employee benefit, sometimes holding the employee responsible and often also finding ways the company can compensate with more than just money.

Jack Henry taught me with his life, that a company must give people life for life. If people spend their life doing their job, they should get life in return. And it’s always harder to help your people succeed than it is to merely compensate them.

So today, for a little change of pace brought on by this past Father’s Day, I’d like to quote my Dad. I often do a number of quotes on Twitter, but today, I’ll quote my Dad so you can have the benefit of some of the wisdom I received over the years.

Talking about an employee one time, “You can’t melt a job down and pour it on him and expect any of it to stick.”

The story goes on their honeymoon, my mom asked him, “Jack, what kind of eggs would you like for breakfast.” After a moment, his one word reply was, “Chicken.”

During the telecom boom, I showed Dad around the company where I worked. We were a startup involved in the boom, spending lots of money on the decorations and the urgency of the business. After looking around our new offices he asked, “This is all real nice son, but, how long till you make money again?”

He was “the boss” or “Mr. Henry” all my life, either managing or owning a small business. Often we’d meet people and they’d ask “How many people work for you?” Pausing as if to think seriously about the answer, he’d come back with, “Oh, about half.”

As a true character-based leader, there’s only one Jack Henry.  He values work. Will you do your share? Will you give more than you take? If so, he’s your friend, but if not, he will withhold a bit of trust and never fully depend on you.

His life has taught me to value reliability, responsibility, dependability and persistence. More than that, he taught me to distinguish between someone who acts a particular way and someone who is that way at their core.

Your “who-you-are” is your character. Someone who leads from who they are rather than from power or position is a character-based leader. Are there any gaps between your true character and your perceived character? That gap weakens your leadership influence and your ability to make a difference. Let’s all be the best “who-we-are” so there’s no need to manage perception or reputation.

Do you have a favorite story about a character-based leader in your life?  Share a bit below, or contact us about writing a post about your favorite character-based leader.  Our world needs great leaders now more than ever.  Would you share a story or two about the great leaders in your past?

What’s Next? Please leave a comment below to join the conversation…

About The Author

Articles By mike-henry
Chief Instigator (Founder) of Lead Change Group and VP of IT for a mid sized technology company. Passionate about character-based leadership and making a positive difference.  »  View Profile

What People Are Saying

Jon Mertz  |  21 Jun 2012  |  Reply

Great character-based story, Mike! The ability to cut through it all and make a point with a simple statement or question is a gift.

I was fortunate to work for a U.S. Senator from my home state of South Dakota. Sen. Jim really took the servant leadership approach to the way he worked with people. Although that term wasn’t popular then, he lived it. He really showed what a true leader should be in that he was the same person when he was in office and when he wasn’t. His character was the most consistent of anyone I have met in government and business. I great attribute to embrace.

Thanks for sharing your story!


Mike Henry  |  21 Jun 2012  |  Reply

Thanks for the comment and sharing about your experience. Mike…

Christina Lattimer  |  21 Jun 2012  |  Reply

Mike, the way you relate your real life story is a clear demonstration of the legacy of your Dad. If all fathers realised the impact they had, then more would take an active role I’m sure.

It reminded me of my dad, who managed his people fairly and with great integrity. As a teenager, I worked for him for a while. He treat me exactly the same as his other employees, if I did well, he would tell everyone, and if I made mistakes or slacked, he would make sure he put me right and told me in no uncertain terms what he expected. His honesty and values were well known and its great to be able to have him as a role model in that respect. He didn’t achieve great results in a commercial sense, but his legacy is still remembered today.

Thanks for posting, I guess we learn from a number of role models, but our Dad is usually the first. Its a real head start when its a positive one.

Mike Henry  |  21 Jun 2012  |  Reply

Thanks for the comment Christina. I wasn’t all that appreciative growing up, or even as an adult for quite a while. But when I started thinking about what I appreciated about my dad, I realized those were all the same qualities we talk about when describing character-based leadership.

Thanks for sharing the story about your dad too. We need to promote those leaders who leave a positive legacy and make the world a better place. Mike…

Thelma  |  22 Jun 2012  |  Reply

Great story Mike. What a great way to honor your father and continue the legacy.

Dale Kurow  |  26 Jun 2012  |  Reply


Your post reminded me of my uncle, who worked until he was 97 years old and loved what he did (he was a entrepreneur/merchant). He never failed to make you feel at ease and valued. Many of the qualities you admired in your father — persistence, dependability, reliability — my uncle Murray possessed. In addition, he was droll and genuine and always himself.

Thank you for reminding me of the wonderful man my uncle was and for your excellent post.


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