Character and Conscience in Leadership

by  Mike Henry  |  Self Leadership

“Conscience is that faculty in me which attaches itself to the highest that I know and tells me what the highest I know demands that I do.” Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest, May 13.

We talk much here about character-based leadership. Our definition for character-based leadership is leading from who you are rather than your power or position. Often, people ask if we have some religious slant on character. We do not. People sometimes check to see if we’re going to be “character-cops” – making lists and judging whether or not someone acts with character. Hang around a while and you’ll see we don’t want to “police” character in anyone but ourselves.

But often, the lower, softer side of who we are would prefer not to be challenged. Our lazy side would prefer to be left alone. We don’t want to get out of bed early to exercise. We can find any excuse in the world to avoid challenges from either outsides ourselves or inside.

On our inside, in our character, there is this faculty, a feature, built into us that calls us to be our highest self. It calls us to be our best us. That’s our conscience.

I’m sure there are some who would object even to the fact that our conscience exists, but often that is the voice of someone who’s shouting to avoid hearing the opposing argument simply because deep down inside, they know they might be wrong. When it comes to our conscience, we may all object a bit too much. That fact may prove its existence.

Chambers’ definition of conscience is the best I’ve ever read. My conscience attaches itself to the highest I know and then it tells me what the highest I know demands that I do. When I listen to the highest I know, I’m the best person I can be. When I act on the highest I know, my best character makes a positive difference. When I am the highest I know, my character, my who-I-am, inspires others to act according to the highest they know. And I become a leader.

We will attract people like us. We will be drawn to people who demonstrate similar affinities and similar character-istics. Those people will encourage us to do what they do and we will encourage them to do what we do. We all influence. I would like to encourage people to act according to the highest they know. That’s the only way I know to make the world better.

Would you like to influence others? Would you like to be a better leader? Your “highest you know” is calling you to act accordingly. Will you? That simple act will make you a character-based leader.

Related posts: Good Leadership vs. Effective Leadership and Character vs. Charisma in Leadership

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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

Deborah Costello  |  21 May 2012  |  Reply

What a thought-provoking post, Mike. I think we all get so hung up on writing rules, on making sure that everybody falls in line. But your call to listen to our highest selves, to strive to be our best, is truly the key. We don’t have to have identical documents guiding our actions, only a common goal that guides our decisions. Strive to be your highest self. Simple. Clear… And when we fail to act in keeping with our highest selves, when we fall, it gives the people in our lives an oppotunity to act in keeping with their highest selves, to forgive, to lift us up and help us return to the path to begin again. Occam’s Razor… the simplest explanation is probably best. Thanks for keeping it simple, Mike.

Mike Henry  |  21 May 2012  |  Reply

Thanks for the great comment Deb. I often find that I almost always have enough knowledge to do the right thing. Thanks again.

Erin Schreyer  |  21 May 2012  |  Reply

Brilliant, Mike! Perfectly worded!

Mike Henry  |  21 May 2012  |  Reply

Thanks Erin.

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