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Leadership Lesson: Lead With Your Character, Not Your Title

As I listened to the CEO’s concluding remarks at his organization’s staff appreciation event, I noted that every attendee was completely engaged; hanging onto every word. Five employees were being recognized for their service, and their leader enthralled the crowd as he shared anecdotes about each person. It was clear that the CEO’s expression of appreciation was heartfelt as he described his professional relationship and history with each individual in great detail. The stories were not about reaching sales targets, completion of projects or new client acquisitions. Rather than focusing exclusively on their contribution to the success of the business, the CEO spoke about the manner in which each honoree had made an impact on him and what he had learned from them in order to be a better person.

The CEO’s style was refreshingly real. He enjoyed being in the moment and remained fully present. He did not place himself on a pedestal, nor did he seek the limelight. I found myself reflecting on my own career path, thinking about leaders who had left a significant impression. What made them stand out? In a word, character.

The Ivy Business Journal presented some fascinating insights regarding the definition of “character”, as well as its importance when it comes to leading others. In a nutshell, their premise is as follows: When organizations hire leaders, the majority focus on competence rather than character. Therefore, it is no surprise that a leader’s values, as well as capacity to connect on a personal level, is often a sorely neglected trait: “Character fundamentally shapes how we engage the world around us, what we notice, what we reinforce, who we engage in conversation, what we value, what we choose to act on, how we decide…and the list goes on.”

Consider as well the latest findings in the State of the American Manager Report, a study of 2.5 million manager-led teams in 195 countries, featuring analysis that measures the engagement of 27 million employees, as well as what characterizes great managers. One of the most intriguing findings in their extensive study pertains to an organization’s inability to select the right person for the task of managing people, noting an astounding failure rate of 82%!

In addition, the report notes the following: “If great managers seem scarce, it’s because the talent required to be one is rare. Talents are innate and are 
the building blocks of great performance. Knowledge, experience and skills develop our talents into strengths, but unless we possess the right innate talents for our job, no amount of training or experience will lead to exceptional performance.”

The emphasis placed on one’s “innate talents” is key. In fact, Jim Clifton, Gallop’s Chairman and CEO says: “Just one in 10 have the natural, God-given talent to manage a team of people. They know how to motivate every individual on their team, boldly review performance, build relationships, overcome adversity and make decisions based on productivity — not politics.”

For leaders and managers to succeed, their first priority is to tap into their inherent potential to lead with their character, not their position.  There is no question that a leader needs to do more than manage others.  However, core competencies such as delegating, outstanding communication skills and “big picture” thinking aren’t enough. Leaders who excel have a profound understanding of an individual’s core needs and consciously apply a leadership mindset during every interaction. They recognize that people crave genuineness and respond positively to humility, honesty and humanness.

 

Image Credit: Icon-Genuine-Crown-In-Olive-Leaves”-by-vectorolie

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