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Maxims from Mike - Character C072417

Hello Leaders,

Welcome to Today. This week's Leadership and Personal Development tip continues with Character.

Character, Conviction, & Competence. These three "C's" are important traits of a good leader. I would argue character is the most essential of the three. Why? Let's consider the top 10 leadership qualities according to Forbes (written in 2012). In rank order, they are 1) honesty, 2) delegation, 3) communication, 4) confidence, 5) commitment, 6) positive attitude, 7) creativity, 8) intuition, 9) inspiration, and 10) approach. The ranking begins with honesty as the top quality of a leader.

"Whatever ethical plane you hold yourself to, when you are responsible for a team of people, its important to raise the bar even higher. Your business and its employees are a reflection of yourself, and if you make honest and ethical behavior a key value, your team will follow suit." - 2012 Forbes article regarding honest in leadership

Brian Tracy lists seven top qualities of a leader: vision, courage, integrity, humility, strategic planning, focus, and cooperation. Zig Ziglar said, "With integrity you have nothing to fear, since you have nothing to hide. With integrity, you will do the right thing, so you will have no guilt."

Entrepreneur Magazine featured an article entitled the 22 Qualities That Make a Great Leader. This was written in 2016. For the sake of brevity, I will list the top five: focus, confidence, transparency, integrity, and inspiration. Transparency and integrity go hand-in-hand. Regarding transparency consider this quote. “I’ve never bought into the concept of ‘wearing the mask.’ As a leader, the only way I know how to engender trust and buy-in from my team and with my colleagues is to be 100 percent authentically me—open, sometimes flawed, but always passionate about our work. It has allowed me the freedom to be fully present and consistent. They know what they’re getting at all times. No surprises.”—Keri Potts, senior director of public relations, ESPN

As it relates to integrity - “Our employees are a direct reflection of the values we embody as leaders. If we’re playing from a reactive and obsolete playbook of needing to be right instead of doing what’s right, then we limit the full potential of our business and lose quality talent. If you focus on becoming authentic in all your interactions, that will rub off on your business and your culture, and the rest takes care of itself.”—Gunnar Lovelace, co-CEO and cofounder, Thrive Market

Even Harvard Business Review weighs in. Number 1 in their survey is Demonstrates strong ethics and provides a sense of safety. "This theme combines two of the three most highly rated attributes: “high ethical and moral standards” (67% selected it as one of the most important) and “communicating clear expectations” (56%). Taken together, these attributes are all about creating a safe and trusting environment. A leader with high ethical standards conveys a commitment to fairness, instilling confidence that both they and their employees will honor the rules of the game. Similarly, when leaders clearly communicate their expectations, they avoid blindsiding people and ensure that everyone is on the same page. In a safe environment employees can relax, invoking the brain’s higher capacity for social engagement, innovation, creativity, and ambition."

In The 21 Indispensable Qualities of a Leader: Becoming the Person Others Will Want to Follow, John Maxwell begins by listing character first. He asserts, "Leaders cannot rise above the limitations of their character... and you can never separate a leader's character from his actions." Sooner or later the true person will be revealed. Is she a woman of sound character or one with major character flaws?

What is the common thread when we consider the rankings from Forbes, Brian Tracy, Entrepreneur Magazine, Harvard Business Review, and John Maxwell? Whether it's honesty, integrity, transparency, or ethics, it all points back to character. Character is the foundation of solid leadership. Take a look around. If you are seeing major challenges within your organization, make sure it is not because of a character flaw. People may have competence to get the job done and possess the conviction that the work needs to be completed. However, if they do not trust the leader (questioning his/her character), the likelihood of stellar performance is severely limited.

For the most part the old adage is true, people do not leave organizations, they leave people. If you have star performers leaving the team, do a character check. Similarly, if you have to replace team members (and especially leaders), examine the character first. Test the conviction second (look for synergy). Look at their competence third. No matter how competent a person is, if he is lacking in character and conviction, you will have an under-performing team member and team.

I pray we will all (leaders and followers) do whatever it takes to nurture our character, strengthen our convictions, and grow in competence... in that order. In an upcoming blog tip I will address dealing with character flaws.

That's it for now. Until the next tip....

Mike Nwankwo

Founder & CEO

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