What does it mean to be a character-based leader? Isn’t that a deep and probing question? There are so many avenues we could take in this conversation, and The Lead Change Group has done that in their new book, The Character Based Leader: Instigating a Leadership Revolution….One Person at a Time, written by 21 authors who believe deeply in this concept of character based leadership.
Let me take one of those paths, and let’s start out by answering the first question: What does it mean to be a character-based leader? The book presents a very simple definition of what this means:
So, who are you?
We are so many things aren’t we? Sometimes, in true chameleon form, it feels like we operate differently depending upon the situation. The challenge is in discovering your intentions in life. Who are you willing to be? And, are you willing to be authentically who you are – no matter what the situation?
One of the things I’ve discovered over the years is that when your values, beliefs, thoughts, words and actions are all aligned, you sit in a place of peace. You are calm, you are engaged, and you know you are doing what is right and good – for the benefit of all, not just yourself. You are living your Truth.
What is your intent as a leader? Are you willing to make the changes necessary to reflect your beliefs in a form of integrity in relationship with your conscience and the culture of the environment in which you are living, working and communing? When you are aligned with the values, beliefs, and the vision held by both you and your culture (work, family, community), that alignment acts a lot like a GPS system in a car. Your intention shows you where you want to go, where you are starting your journey, and the path for you to follow. It is a roadmap for life, and it changes the way you lead, live and interact with others.
From that place of peace, as a leader, you may recognize that people want to be valued, they want to know that they have been heard, and that they are given every opportunity to make the difference they are here to make in this world. You understand that leadership is not about you, but about the people you lead, and you are here to help them by serving them compassionately, and from a loving heart.
You understand that your job is to lead the movement forward in fulfilling the mission of the organization by inspiring, encouraging and supporting the greatness of the people within the organization. This is what a character based leader does, bringing a willingness to epitomize all those traits we admire in others: humble, loving, generous, inclusive, encouraging, appreciative, clear, compassionate, conscious, courageous, mindful, supportive, trustworthy, kind, truthful, etc.
For me, true character based leadership means five things. You can find an expansion of my thoughts in the book, The Character Based Leader: Instigating a Leadership Revolution….One Person at a Time:, but here is a synopsis:
1) Balance – the ability to determine what is real or a distortion of the truth, and to weather the ups and downs of organizational change; build trust.
2) Personal Responsibility – being accountable and disciplined in the implementation of the mission and values of the organization. Listening to feedback, and being willing to change
3) Authenticity – having authentic conversations, living your values, declaring your priorities and making hard decisions. The risk in this is profound. You are exercising the character traits of vulnerability, humility and trust.
4) Passion – keeping things personal, without taking things personally. It is staying in the flow, collaborating, and moving forward.
5) Service – motivated out of a commitment to do what is best for everyone. It is living your values and beliefs, and creating a model for others to emulate because they respect you, rather than fear you. Others look to you for guidance in times of uncertainty and chaos, fortune and misfortune.
Leadership is a state of being. It may not always be popular, but it will create respect and a deep sense of appreciation and esteem.
What are your intentions as a leader?