A Case Of Mistaken Identity Changed My Life

I credit my altered career path to The Lead Change Group’s book The Character-Based Leader.

Before you roll your eyes in disbelief, you should know that what I am about to tell you is the unvarnished truth and it all started with a wayward email intended for someone else.

Back then I was working in a position that paid well, with health insurance and a growing 401K. I appreciated the work and never said no to opportunities to put in extra effort to support the corporate vision. Inside, however, I felt the effects of being in a place where my values were out of alignment with the leadership of the organization.

One day I received a personal email inviting me to a Lead Change Group project meeting to discuss chapters in their collaborative work on the book The Character-Based Leader. I recognized the name of the sender, but not from the Lead Change Group, because at that time, I had no knowledge of the group. In fact at that time I had no knowledge of online communities. Yet, this meeting was to be held and it appeared that it would be attended by people who were not even in close proximity to each other. That in itself was a mystery.

The sender of the email, Jennifer Miller, had been a co-worker back when I was starting my first official job in a large corporation. I know now that the Jane she was inviting was not me, Jane Anderson but Jane Perdue, author and leadership futurist.

From that wayward email, I discovered that a book on a topic dear to my heart would eventually be published. I was eager to learn from leaders who lived by strong moral and ethical character and was curious to read how so many individuals coming from unique perspectives would write a playbook of cohesive thought.

Many months later I think I was one of the first to purchase their book, the Character-Based Leader. It isn’t purchasing the book that changed my life though. It’s the chain reaction that resulted from it. The book was the catalyst for getting me to make some life changing decisions.

You see, when I read the chapters I realized that there really are grounded leaders whose organizations are held to a high standard of values. Through that book, I reconnected with Jennifer Miller. I was introduced to Becky Robinson and invited to be a part of her organization as a member of Team Buzz Builder, which gives readers the opportunity to help spread the word about new leadership books.

From writing book reviews and participating in online communities like the Lead Change Group I have met the most remarkable people. It all started with my love of the book, the Character-Based Leader.

Here are a few of my favorite takeaways:

Why Character-Based Leadership

Cheryl Gegelman contributed this chapter. She shares, "Character-Based Leaders have the ability to unleash greatness in each individual and throughout the organization" and she recommends starting with you

She continues, “When everyone of good character draws a line and says that character counts all the time in all places, the revolution [for change] begins.”

Leadership Touchstones

In this chapter, Jennifer identifies three broad categories of trust touchstones:

  • Ethics Touchstone - Evaluates moral character of the leader
  • Interpersonal Touchstone - This comes from chemistry, the blend of personality traits and daily interactions that affects how leaders connect with others.
  • Work Focus Touchstone - Leaders have an opportunity to build trust with people through their methods of getting work done. A leader’s work focus is based on behaviors that are an outward expression of their interior life.

The bedrock of Character-Based Leadership is that morals and ethics must be impeccable because they funnel into trustworthiness.

Mastering The Inner Game Of Personal Integrity

While discussing authenticity and accountability, Susan Mazza wrote, "Choosing to do the right thing because doing the wrong thing would make you look bad is an act of manipulation, not integrity.” Susan implores leaders to mindfully choose values and principles to guide their words, actions, and decisions.

Leading Yourself Into Integrity

No leadership qualities have the impact of plain old fashioned humility. Any leadership quality fails without humility. Humility is evidenced in lifting others up, stepping aside so others can shine, and taking the blame while giving credit. Humility can be learned, but only from practice. In this chapter, Dan Rockwell writes about 7 practices to lead yourself to humility.

Respect Brings Your Team To Life

I have a tendency to root for the underdog and feel bad when anyone loses. It’s hard for me to choose sides because I want everyone to win. In this chapter, Mike Henry writes, “Respect is the pursuit of win-win.”

Character-Based Leaders practically manufacture respect because they model it, they share it, they expect it. Although respect is not a natural quality, it can be earned and it can be learned.

This chapter takes a deep dive into the many ways respect is earned, developed, practiced, and applied. Mike says Character-Based Leadership is an endless source of energy and life for an organization. He relates the impact of respect when dealing with conflict and resolution. He says respect is the key to bringing life to a team and giving everyone in the organization an opportunity to lead in some sphere.

On September 22, 2012 I published my first ever book review. That number is now in excess of 20. In part, this is what the book review said: I bought this book the first day I heard it would be available. As I was contemplating purchasing The Character Based Leader, I noticed all the names of authors who contributed and realized what a gold mine this book would be.

There is no one size fits all in our organizations today, but there is the underlying need for leaders who operate with impeccable ethics, passion for their work, with compassion for humanity. This book recognizes that and seeks to build character at the individual level where it will spread into the board rooms and built into business blueprints to create the tapestry for stronger organizations.

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