- December 24, 2014
- Posted by: Keith Stalder
- Category: Leadership
“Good character is more to be praised than outstanding talent. Most talents are to some extent a gift. Good character, by contrast, is not given to us. We have to build it piece by piece—by thought, choice, courage and determination.” — John Luther The definition of character is as varied as the individuals who might be asked to define it. Most of us have our own version and it’s truly one of those leadership attributes that the phrase “I know it when I see it.” can apply. It’s an expression by which a speaker attempts to define something even though it’s quite subjective or lacks clear parameters. The phrase was famously used by Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart to describe his threshold test for obscenity.
I define it as “Doing the right thing(s), for the right reason(s), in the right way(s); even when it’s difficult. Especially when it’s difficult.” Whether you like this definition or not, every leader needs a definition of their own that they can hold themselves to and by which to judge their employees.
Not all employees have a specific definition, but every one “knows it when they see it” and are especially observant and astute judges of their leaders’ characters.
Leaders should understand that the character test is always in play. With every situation, circumstance , decision, action, and word they are under close examination to determine if she/he meets the threshold of good character. Stellar character is an acid test to gain and hold the respect of subordinates. Leaders either have it, or they don’t, in the eyes of employees. Without it they can’t truly lead.
Leaders should apply the same test to their employees, as well. Doing so will help discover the highest performing subordinate and potential leaders from among the workforce. Senior leaders should identify them using the test of character and challenge them with ever greater responsibility and duties. Find them and put them to the test again and again.
Finally, leaders need to understand the difference between personality and character. Most organizations are propelled by personality which takes the form of agreeable temperaments, friendly relationships, charm, and cheerful dispositions. All of which can be positive, as long as they are not a substitute for real character. Employees respect character and the leaders who truly have it. They may like the likable personalities but that won’t motivate them to do the right thing(s), for the right reason(s), in the right way(s); even when it’s difficult. Especially when it’s difficult.
“Good character is more to be praised than outstanding talent. Most talents are to some extent a gift. Good character, by contrast, is not given to us. We have to build it piece by piece—by thought, choice, courage and determination.” — John Luther
Merry Christmas, Keith Stalder, #29
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