How a leader deals with the circumstances of life tells you many things about his/her character. Crisis doesn’t necessarily make character, but it certainly does reveal it. Adversity is a crossroads that makes a person choose one of two paths: character or compromise. Every time he/she chooses character, he/she becomes stronger, even if that choice brings negative consequences. As Nobel prize-winning author Alexander Solzhenitsyn noted, “The meaning of earthly existing lies, not as we have grown used to thinking, in prospering, but in the development of the soul.” The development of character is at the heart of our development not just as leaders, but as human beings.
This blog post outlines 4 things every person must know about character:
1. Character is More than Talk: Anyone can say that he or she has integrity, but action is the real indicator of character. Your character determines who you are. Who you are determines what you see. What you see determines what you do. That’s why you can never separate a leader’s character from his or her actions. If a leader’s actions and intentions are continually working against each other, then look to their character to find out why.
2. Talent is a Gift, but Character Is a Choice: We have no control over a lot of things in life. We don’t get to choose our parents. We don’t select the location or circumstances of our birth and upbringing. We don’t get to pick our talents or IQ. But we do choose our character. In fact, we create it every time we make choices– to cop out or dig out of a hard situation, to bend the truth or stand under the weight of it, to take the easy money or pay the price. As you live your life and make choices today, you are continuing to create your character.
3. Character Brings Lasting Success with People: True leadership always involves other people. (As the leadership proverb says, if you think you’re leading and no one is following you, then you’re only taking a walk.) Followers do not trust leaders whose character they know to be flawed, and they will not continue following them.
4. Leaders Cannot Rise Above the Limitations of Their Character: Have you ever seen highly talented people suddenly fall apart when they achieved a certain level of success? The key to that phenomenon is character. Steven Berglas, a psychologist at Harvard Medical School and author of The Success Syndrome, says that people who achieve great heights but lack the bedrock character to sustain them through the stress are headed for disaster. He believes they are destined for one or more of the four A’s: arrogance, painful feelings of aloneness, destructive adventure-seeking, or adultery. Each is a terrible price to pay for weak character.
As you lead others at home, at work, and in the community, recognize that your character is your most important asset.
Source: Maxwell, J. (n.d.). The 21 indispensable qualities of a leader: Becoming the person others will want to follow.