Leadership - Character and Traits

Managers are people who do things right, while leaders are people who do the right thing. - Warren Bennis, Ph.D. "On Becoming a Leader"

 

"Waste no time arguing what a good man should be. Be one." - Marcus Aurelius

"Courage - not complacency - is our need today. Leadership not salesmanship." - John F. Kennedy

Building Excellence

Leaders do not command excellence, they build excellence. Excellence is "being all you can be" within the bounds of doing what is right for your organization. To reach excellence you must first be a leader of character. You must do everything you are supposed to do. An organizations will not achieve excellence by figuring out where it wants want to go, then having leaders do whatever they have to in order to get the job done, and hope that along the way those leaders acted with good character. That way is backwards. Pursuing excellence should not be confused with accomplishing a job or task. When you do planning, you do it by backwards planning. But you do not achieve excellence by backwards planning. Excellence starts with leaders of character who engage in the entire process of leadership. And the first process is being a person of honorable character.

Character develops over time. Many think that much of character is formed early in life. However, nobody knows exactly how much or how early character develops. But, it is safe to claim that character does not change quickly. A person's observable behavior is an indication of her character. This behavior can be strong or weak, good or bad. A person with strong character shows drive, energy, determination, self-discipline, willpower, and nerve. She sees what she wants and goes after it. She attracts followers. On the other hand, a person with weak character shows none of these traits. She does not know what she wants. Her traits are disorganized, she vacillates and is inconsistent. She will attract no followers.

A strong person can be good or bad. A gang leader is an example of a strong person with a bad character, while an outstanding community leader is one with both strong and good characteristics. An organization needs leaders with strong and good characteristics, people who will guide them to the future and show that they can be trusted.

To be an effective leader, your people must have trust in you and they have to be sold on your vision. Korn-Ferry International, an executive search company, performed a survey on what organizations want from their leaders. The respondents said they wanted people who were ethical and who convey a strong vision of the future. In any organization, a leader's actions set the pace. This behavior wins trust, loyalty, and ensures the organization's continued vitality. One of the ways to build trust is to display a good sense of character. Character is the disposition of a person, made up of beliefs, values, skills, and traits.

Beliefs are the deep rooted beliefs that a person holds dear. They could be assumptions or convictions that you hold true regarding people, concepts, or things. They could be the beliefs about life, death, religion, what is good, what is bad, what is human nature, etc.

Values are attitudes about the worth of people, concepts, or things. For example, you might value a good car, home, friendship, personal comfort, or relatives. These are import because they influence your behavior to weigh the importance of alternatives. For example, you might value friends more than privacy.

Skills are the knowledge and abilities you gain throughout life. The ability to learn a new skill varies with each individual. Some skills come almost naturally, while others come only by complete devotion to study and practice.

Traits are distinguishing qualities or characteristics of a person, while character is the sum total of these traits. There are hundreds of personality traits, far too many to be discussed here. Instead, we will focus on a few that are crucial for a leader. The more of these you display as a leader, the more your people will believe and trust in you: (1)

  • Honesty - Display sincerity, integrity, and candor in all your actions. Deceptive behavior will not inspire trust in your people.
  • Competent - Your actions should be based on reason and moral principles. Do not make decisions based on childlike emotional desires or feelings.
  • Forward-looking Set goals and have a vision of the future. The vision must be owned throughout the organization. Effective leaders envision what they want and how to get it. They habitually pick priorities stemming from their basic values.
  • Inspiring - Display confidence in all that you do. By showing endurance in mental, physical, and spiritual stamina, you will inspire your people to reach for new heights. Take charge when necessary.
  • Intelligent - Read, study, and seek challenging assignments.
  • Fair-minded - Show fair treatment to all people. Prejudice is the enemy of justice. Display empathy by being sensitive to the feelings, values, interests, and well-being of others.
  • Broad-minded - Seek out diversity.
  • Courageous - Have the perseverance to accomplish a goal, regardless of the seemingly insurmountable obstacles. Display a confident calmness when under stress.
  • Straightforward - Use sound judgment to make a good decision at the right time.
  • Imaginative - Make timely and appropriate changes in thinking, plans, and methods. Show creativity by thinking of new and better goals, ideas, and solutions to problems.
 

 


 

 
 

Attributes

Attributes establish what leaders are, and every leader needs at least three of them:
Standard Bearers
establish the ethical framework within an organization. This demands a commitment to live and defend the climate and culture that you want to permeate your organization. What you set as an example will soon become the rule as unlike skills or knowledge, ethical behavior is learned more by observing that by listening. And in fast moving situations, examples become certainty. Being a standard bearer creates trust and openness in your employees, who in turn, fulfill your visions.
Developers
help others learn through teaching, training, and coaching. This creates an exciting place to work and learn. Never miss an opportunity to teach or learn something new yourself. Coaching suggests someone who cares enough to get involved by encouraging and developing others who are less experienced. Employees who work for developers know that they can take risks, learn by making mistakes, and winning in the end.
Integrators
orchestrate the many activities that take place throughout an organization by providing a view of the future and the ability to obtain it. Success can only be achieved when there is a unity of effort to obtain it. Integrators have a sixth sense about where problems will occur and make their presence felt during critical times. They know that their employees do their best when they are left to work within a vision based framework.

 

 
 

Perspectives of Character and Traits

Traits (acronym - JJ did tie buckle)
  • Justice
  • Judgment
  • Dependability
  • Initiative
  • Decisiveness
  • Tact
  • Integrity
  • Enthusiasm
  • Bearing
  • Unselfishness
  • Courage
  • Knowledge
  • Loyalty
  • Endurance
     
The Image of Leadership - John Schoolland
A leader's a man who commands much respect,
But due to the natures of all,
He's only as good as the image he casts
In the mirror that hangs on the wall.
He usually sees what he wants, and no more,
He's afraid to look deep in his soul.
He doesnít consider himself as at fault,
But wants others to help reach his goal.
When failures arise he blames it on all
Who failed to help or take part,
"They never did what they were told, " he would say,
"they haven't the skill or the art."
What kind of a leader are you going to be - the kind who thinks he is the best?
Or will you be one of the very few greats
Who attributes success to the rest.
Don't fail to look at the help you received
From parents and friends all your life.
They comforted you, praised you, and gave you the push
To help you through trouble and strife.
Another whose help you should never forget,
Who gave you your life and His love,
The One to whom all of our assets are known
Is the One whom we pray to above.
Be humble in all of your leadership traits.
Thank those who have made you so tall.
Be human to others, consider them too,
Then smile through the glass on the wall.

U.S. Army 11 Leadership Principles

  • Be tactically and technically proficient
  • Know yourself and seek self-improvement
  • Know your soldiers and look out for their welfare
  • Keep your soldiers informed
  • Set the example
  • Ensure the task is understood, supervised and accomplished
  • Train your soldiers as a team
  • Make sound and timely decisions
  • Develop a sense of responsibility in your subordinates
  • Employ your unit in accordance with its capabilities
  • Seek responsibility and take responsibility for your actions
     
Organizations consist of three components:
  1. The structure gives the organization its form and dictates the way it will interact.
  2. The led respond to the structure and the leaders.
  3. The leaders determine the ultimate effectiveness of the organization as the character and skills that they bring determine the way problems are solved and tasks are accomplished.
     
U.S. Army 23 Traits of Character
  • Bearing
  • Confidence
  • Courage
  • Integrity
  • Decisiveness
  • Justice
  • Endurance
  • Tact
  • Initiative
  • Coolness
  • Maturity
  • Improvement
  • Will
  • Assertiveness
  • Candor
  • Sense of humor
  • Competence
  • Commitment
  • Creativity
  • Self-discipline
  • Humility
  • Flexibility
  • Empathy/Compassion
     
Are managers leaders? Are leaders managers?
Managers need to be leaders...their workers need vision and guidance! On the other hand, leaders need to be good managers of the resources entrusted to them.

 

 
 

References

1. Compiled by the Santa Clara University and the Tom Peters Group.
Return

2. U.S. Army Handbook (1973). Military Leadership.


 

 

 

Notes

Copyright 1997 by Donald Clark
Created May 11, 1997. Last update - February 6, 2000.
Big Dog's Leadership Page
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donclark@nwlink.com

http://www.nwlink.com/~donclark/leader/leadchr.html