The Foundations Stones of Great Leadership Part 2

The Foundations Stones of Great Leadership Part 2

As you think about great leadership, who comes to mind as a leader who displayed great character? They are the sort of people who you know will be the same whatever situation you find them in. They are calm in situations which threaten to overwhelm others. They have spent the necessary time reflecting so their values serve as that inner compass. As a leadership development coach I have observed that in the corporate world, the character of a leader is a critical determinant of their success and the success of their organisation. Character, which includes traits like honesty, reliability, and courage, is essential for building trust within a team. Yet, there is a growing perception that these qualities are diminishing in today’s business leaders.

How do you define it?

Character is who we are when no-one else is looking. These are issues of integrity does who you say you are, match up with the way you live out your life? 


This quote puts it well:


“Sow a thought, reap an act; sow an act, reap a habit; sow a habit, reap a character; sow a character, reap a destiny.” Author Unknown


What comes out in what we do and what we say starts as a thought in our mind. We have to reflect on whether those thoughts are true, productive and right. 


Character is what goes on inside. The heart issues. What are the values that you hold that guide you in your interactions with others? That govern your decision making? That keep you straight when temptation comes your way?


Character traits that will build credibility include: 


Integrity – at its root the word means whole or complete. As it applies to a human being it means that a person is the same on the inside as they are outside. That what they say lines up with what they do.


Honesty – Is about being straight with people. Telling the truth. As leaders we can make promises that we know are unlikely to be kept. Not because we don’t want to, but because it was unrealistic to make it. Better to be straight about timescales, expectations, and mistakes made. 

Humility – acting out of humility means that there is more “we” than “me in your view of the world. You are less concerned about personal credit it’s about a win for the team. It doesn’t mean you are soft or shy necessarily, it does mean that you can celebrate great ideas whether they are yours or have come from another member of the team. The question is about whether the idea works for the team rather than who came up with it.

Factors Which Erode Character in Business

1. Corporate Opportunism:

As leaders do you prioritise personal ambition and financial gain over the well-being of your organisation colleagues and team? This may lead you to make decisions and take actions that lack integrity.

2. Moral Decline:

A broader societal decline in moral standards can reflect within organisations, leading to compromised character among leaders. Everybody does it can be a refrain.

3. Conformity Pressure:

The pressure to conform to corporate norms and expectations can force leaders to compromise their personal values. Interestingly it is when you swim against the tide that you find out how important your values are.

4. Short-term Focus:

A focus on immediate results and short-term gains often leads leaders to make expedient choices that undermine their character. Short cuts rarely end up where you hoped. The hard work is worth it for the result.

5. Absence of Mentorship:

Without strong mentors, emerging leaders may lack examples of good character to emulate, leading to ethical and moral lapses. Be careful who you have in your inner circle, you need those you can trust who will tell you the truth.

Creating an Environment that Fosters Character

1. Mentorship/Coaching Programs:

Develop mentorship or coaching programs where seasoned leaders with strong character guide and support emerging leaders. This is so invaluable, often experience is lost for the sake of the new. This is the best of both worlds.

2. Ethical Standards Enforcement:

Ethical Standards Enforcement: Enforce high ethical standards consistently and ensure that violations are met with appropriate consequences. These will be encapsulated in your lived out values.

3. Long-term Vision:

Encourage leaders to adopt a long-term perspective, focusing on sustainable growth and ethical decision-making. You need to be able to point to examples. The vision needs to be visible and compelling when it gets tough it must be worth striving for.

The work of building character is not the easiest but it means you know you have not compromised who you are. What next step can you take to work on your character?

Photo by Thomas Thompson on Unsplash

Picture of Mark Billage

Mark Billage

Mark’s passion is to help realise individuals’ potential, be they leaders or team members, through empowering organisational culture. He has spent 7 years leading an organisation based in the non profit sector. In that time, he focused on creating a culture that enabled and empowered individuals, with the aim of seeing a high performing team better able to achieve the organisation’s mission.

Our Vision

To train and equip leaders to transform culture, build successful teams and organisations where everyone is seen, heard and valued for their unique contribution.

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