Leading From Who You Are (A Book Excerpt)

The Lead Change Group was incubated by people who wanted to capture the idea of leadership being espoused by a group of leaders in social media and Internet channels in the summer and fall of 2009.

The term character-based leadership rose out of this group’s efforts and eventually led to the book, The Character-Based Leader.

After a lengthy process considering the many things character-based leadership was not, the group decided that character-based leadership was “leading from who you are rather than from your power or position.”

Character-based leadership is not a list of behaviors, but is about who you are at your core.

Instigating A Leadership Revolution

In collaborating to write The Character-Based Leader, we balanced a desire to maintain the individuality of the authors while creating a cohesive message that resonates. When we each bring the best of who we are to the practice of leadership, we find that each person’s character varies the definition. Snowflakes share characteristics but they say no two are exactly alike. No two people are exactly alike. Therefore, no two people will live the definition of a character-based leader the same.

In future excerpts, Lead Change Instigators will share their experiences and beliefs about character-based leadership. These guiding principles infuse every contribution to the book, look for them in subsequent excerpts. As you’ll see, they also stand alone as leadership principles worth taking to heart.

Underlying Principles

You will see three core underlying principles running through the chapters of The Character-Based Leader:

Leadership Is Influence

John Maxwell has quite famously stated, “leadership is influence, plain and simple.” It is the ability to get someone else to want to do what you want them to do. Leadership respects the individual and their choice to contribute.

Influence Is Given

Simon Sinek has stated that we can only inspire or manipulate. Every individual in the developed world is a free agent, even though we acknowledge that many people around the world are not free. Degrees of freedom may be applied, but everyone is free to choose whom they support, what they support, and the degree to which they support an idea.

Seth Godin calls this emotional labor in his book Linchpin, quoting Arlie Hochschild. We choose the degree to which we bring our creative energies to an effort. We choose the degree to which we innovate, excite, mobilize and serve others. In the end, cooperation with a leader is contributed.

People Give Influence Based On Competence, Trust & Purpose

Competence - First, we want to know if the leader can get us to the group’s objective. Although I might trust my wife to want me to be well, I don’t always take her medical advice and I would never let her operate on me. We must believe that the person we choose to join has the ability to get us to the objective.

Trust - Second, we must believe that the leader will get us to our objective. In addition to reaching the group’s objective, we need to know the leader will do so in a way that doesn’t violate our best interests, but helps us achieve the benefit we expect from joining the effort. We want our leaders to be for us, not simply for themselves.

Purpose - Finally, we must believe the purpose is worth the effort. We may believe the leader capable and we may believe the leader to be trustworthy, but the leader may have a vision and direction contrary to where we want to go. Without regard to the quality of the purpose, we simply must have an aligned purpose or we won’t give the leader much influence or authority over us. We will withdraw our cooperation if the leader’s objectives and ours begin to separate.

We hope to excite you about the idea that your personal leadership makes a critical difference in the world. We want to challenge you to bring the best you to the marketplace of ideas and to make a positive difference. We want you to achieve your greatest accomplishments based on who you are. Remember, great accomplishments are those that benefit others. Bring your best self, your true character, to make the greatest difference for people in your sphere of influence. That’s Character-Based Leadership.

NOTE: This post is an edited excerpt of The Character-Based Leader. Minor modifications have been made due to space constraints. To order a copy of the book, please visit the Character Based Leader page on Amazon.

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