Creating Waves of Influence Through 7 Character Based Leadership Attributes


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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