Creating Waves of Influence Through 7 Character Based Leadership Attributes

by  Claudio Morelli  |  Leadership Development


If one important outcome of effective character-based leadership is to influence and impact others, how do character based leaders attain this outcome? How do you move from being one rock dropped in the water that creates ripples of influence and impacts some individuals, into many leadership rocks that create waves of influence and impacts an entire organization? Are there specific character attributes that can facilitate waves of influence and impact? Can you use these character traits alone or is something else required to generate greater influence?

In Good to Great, Jim Collins describes the type of leadership required to turn a good company into a great company. He describes this type of leadership as Level 5 Leadership that is “leadership marked by two characteristics: steely determination and an attitude of humility.” Collins continues by stating that, “We were surprised, shocked really, to discover the type of leadership required for turning a good company into a great one. Compared to high-profile leaders with big personalities who make headlines and become celebrities, the good-to-great leaders seem to have come from Mars. Self-effacing, quiet, reserved, even shy – these leaders are a paradoxical blend of personal humility and professional will.”

Collins’ research points out that when a leader combines specific character attributes and persistent will to move forward, greater influence and impact results and successful outcomes and results are obtained.

Stephen M.R. Covey in The Speed of Trust puts it another way. Leaders who deliver results and consistently demonstrate 13 key character based behaviors generate greater trustworthiness and increased influence among those whom they lead. These 13 behaviors include demonstrating respect, creating transparency, showing loyalty, listening first and extending trust.

I propose seven integral character based leadership attributes needed to increase one’s influence on others to generate waves of impact and positive results.

Seven Character Attributes to Enhance Influence  

  1. Selflessness – using your influence to do what is best for others not yourself.
  2. Dependability – you say what you are going to do and then do what you say you are going to do. You do not break confidences.
  3. Cooperative – you are relationship focused and do what is best for others and the community.
  4. Considerate – to care for others and respond sensitively to their emotions and feelings.
  5. Courageous – willing to take risks for the right reasons in spite of fear.
  6. Vulnerability – to expose oneself to criticism, to risk failure or to invite trouble by sharing openly and honestly.
  7. Humility – to act according to the principles that govern relationships and to act first in the service of others.

From personal experience there is no shame in demonstrating what critics of character-based leadership call “soft leadership.” Demonstrating vulnerability, humility, openness and acting selflessly demonstrates strength and conviction.  Leading a school district for a number of years, the consistent and persistent demonstration of these character attributes gave permission for others to act similarly. It encouraged open discussion, created transparency, and facilitated authenticity – another key leadership attribute. When these traits were emulated and modeled by other leaders, positive outcomes and results were being attained throughout the district. What started out as one rock generating ripples of influence turned into many rocks generating waves of influence. This was done through intentional, purposeful, and consistent demonstration of character-based leadership attributes implemented by results oriented people. These waves of influence continue today and with  “steely determination and an attitude of humility,” more leadership rocks will be developed.

What character attributes have you found to be effective in influencing others? What purposeful and intentional actions have you used to influence others and develop more leadership rocks? Can you describe a Level 5 leader whom you have worked for and what impact did he/she have on you?


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What People Are Saying

Margaret  |  29 Oct 2012  |  Reply

Humility is one thing I look for–are they a team player? Or do they believe they are better off by themselves?

Claudio Morelli  |  29 Oct 2012  |  Reply

Margaret, thank you for your comment. Humility and a team perspective are definitely two key attributes that I look for in leaders. From my experience these are the individuals that develop greater trust and confidence from others in an organization. They also focus on what can they do to enhance the organization.

Kind regards, Claudio

Terry  |  29 Oct 2012  |  Reply

Great list. I like the way your experience of demonstrating these attributes gave others permission to do so. For me this is an example of real leadership – leading by example and creating the environment for others to express their leadership.

Claudio Morelli  |  29 Oct 2012  |  Reply

Thanks Terry. Demonstrating these attributes goes a long way to creating a trust filled environment where leaders can lead authentically and with a focus on building positive relationships based on trust. This is of greater importance when you encounter obstacles, challenges and differences of opinion. It is during these times when the importance of modelling these character-based leadership attributes comes into play. Appreciate you sharing your comment Terry.

Best regards, Claudio

Christian Paulsen  |  29 Oct 2012  |  Reply

That is an excellent list. Just think of the transformations that would take place if more leaders had these attributes. Thank you for sharing.

Claudio Morelli  |  29 Oct 2012  |  Reply

I totally agree with you Christian. When you see these attributes demonstrated by leaders influence grows and positive outcomes are attained. Thanks for sharing your comment.


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