"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.
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 organization will not achieve excellence by
figuring out where it wants 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
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
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
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.
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
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
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.
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
- Straightforward -
Use sound judgment to make a good decision at the
- 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.