Why Character-Based Leadership? (A Book Excerpt)

In a previous post, we shared how 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.

In order to provide visitors to the Lead Change Group with the background about how this site came to be, and because much of the information is timeless, we are sharing excerpts from The Character-Based Leader occasionally.

Previously, we shared an excerpted version of Chapter One, Instigating A Character-Based Leadership Revolution.

Today we will examine an excerpt from Chapter Two, Why Character-Based Leadership authored by Chery Gegelman.

Why Character-Based Leadership?

When I first started using social media, I sent out a lot of quotes like the one above and quickly learned that the quotes that consistently received the largest number of responses were the ones that touched on a source of pain and a need for change in our workplaces and in our society.

The world is crying out for leaders who build up, nurture and enhance; rather than tear down exploit and dominate.
~ Laurie Beth Jones

Recently, fellow Lead Change contributing author, Tristan Bishop, reminded me about the television show Undercover Boss. I found myself pondering how much that show resonates with the public and the reasons that it is so popular.

Would you rather work with someone who:

  • Won’t take the time to define what they want, but consistently growls like a grizzly and berates people for doing the wrong things or for taking no initiative?
  • Cares more for their people and the mission than for themselves?
  • Helps to develop your greatest strengths and empowers you to make a difference?
  • When faced with a crisis, is so focused on finding someone to blame, they have no ability to problem solve?
  • Provides a motivating vision, removes obstacles, and celebrates you, your work and the impact you are making?
  • Has a great vision and desire to serve, then gets distracted by their own success?
  • Means what they say, says what they mean, and apologizes when they make mistakes?

Consider the number of leadership speakers, authors, and bloggers whose content is continually devoured by the public. Do you see the emphasis on our human quest for something more? 

In all of these examples, there is a common theme that people want to be valued, to be understood, and to be given the opportunity to make a difference. Would it surprise you to realize that our leadership needs today are the same as they were thousands of years ago? They have been spoken in slightly different words at different times and through different people, but the truths themselves are the same.

Take a look:

Love your neighbor as yourself.
~ Jesus Christ
A leader is not an administrator who loves to run others, but someone who carries water for his people so they can get on with their jobs.
 ~ Robert Townsend
People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.
~ Theodore Roosevelt
Life's most persistent and urgent question is, 'What are you doing for others?'
~ Martin Luther King Jr.
Leaders provide for their people what the people cannot provide for themselves.
~ John Maxwell
The purpose of influence is to speak up for those who have no influence.
~ Rick Warren

So why does history keep repeating itself? Perhaps it is to emphasize lessons that have already been learned. Maybe it’s to humble us into the realization that modern society is not much more sophisticated than ancient society.

Maybe it is to encourage us with the knowledge that Character-Based Leadership is not a new concept and it is not difficult to understand or to apply. It is just a series of simple truths that have been time-tested and continually proven.

Or maybe it’s because, as humans, we naturally believe that the world should revolve around us. For many of us, it has taken a life-altering circumstance or a season of brokenness before we understood that life and leadership really is not about me. That lesson becomes our defining moment and causes us not just to be willing to bend our knees and serve others, but also to actually desire those opportunities. We begin to realize that each time we serve others from the deepest parts of our hearts, we are filled with intense compassion and new insights.

If you are a titled leader, seeking to lead differently, be encouraged. You don’t have to drive over people to achieve results. You can choose to be a Character-Based Leader while unleashing greatness in each individual and throughout the organization. When you choose this path, it will be much like setting up a computer for the first time. The initial investment of time and energy is greater than what you may be currently doing. However, in the long run, you will create a more efficient and less stressful workplace for everyone, you included.

  1. First, find someone who is willing to hold you accountable for your actions and behaviors.
  2. Then, focus everyone on a shared vision and purpose.
  3. Finally, dig deep to uncover the gifts of each individual on your team, and focus yourself on serving and developing the individuals and the team as a whole.

By doing so, you will begin to inspire confidence, expectation and hope in those you lead, and as the team develops you will experience increasing momentum and, eventually, a flood of uncommon results. If you are not a titled leader, but you share this vision, you may be wondering how to create a case for change that will be heard and responded to by those in titled leadership positions. Begin by applying one of Stephen Covey’s Seven Habits, “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.” Understand that people don’t know what they don’t know and that, like children, titled leaders have learned what they have lived.

  • Those who have been abused frequently become abusers.
  • Those who have lived in fear create fear-based environments.
  • Those who have worked in environments without integrity frequently create environments without integrity.
  • Those who have been told not to think but just to do expect the same from others.

The book of Proverbs says that without a vision, people perish. Sharing a vision with titled leaders will require courage and commitment, but consider this: If you can’t or won’t, who will? And if no one does, how can change be created? And if no one steps forward to lead change, what will the effect be on future generations?

It always seems impossible until it’s done.
~ Nelson Mandela

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.

Twitter feed is not available at the moment.