Welcome to Today. Today's Leadership and Personal Development tip deals with Character.... or the lack thereof.
Howard Ward Beecher, a nineteenth century clergyman, said, "Hold yourself responsible for a higher standard than anyone else expects of you. Never excuse yourself. Never pity yourself. Be a hard master to yourself and be lenient to everyone else."
We cannot control others. But we should be ruler over ourselves. We can choose to be a person of sound character and integrity. Brian Tracy posits, "The person you are today, your innermost character, is the sum total of all your choices and decisions in life up to this date." Sadly, many have chosen to be unscrupulous for so long it has become a part of their nature. Consider the fable about the scorpion and the frog.
One day, a scorpion looked around at the mountain where he lived and decided that he wanted a change. So he set out on a journey through the forests and hills. He climbed over rocks and under vines and kept going until he reached a river. The river was wide and swift, and the scorpion stopped to reconsider the situation. He couldn't see any way across. So he ran upriver and then checked downriver, all the while thinking that he might have to turn back.
Suddenly, he saw a frog sitting in the bushes by the bank of the stream on the other side of the river. He decided to ask the frog for help getting across the stream. "Hellooo Mr. Frog!" called the scorpion across the water, "Would you be so kind as to give me a ride on your back across the river?" "Well now, Mr. Scorpion! How do I know that if I try to help you, you won’t try to kill me?" asked the frog hesitantly. "Because," the scorpion replied, "If I try to kill you, then I would die too, for you see I cannot swim!
"Now this seemed to make sense to the frog. But he asked. "What about when I get close to the bank? You could still try to kill me and get back to the shore!" "This is true," agreed the scorpion, "But then I wouldn't be able to get to the other side of the river!""Alright then...how do I know you won’t just wait till we get to the other side and THEN kill me?" said the frog. "Ahh...," crooned the scorpion, "Because you see, once you've taken me to the other side of this river, I will be so grateful for your help, that it would hardly be fair to reward you with death, now would it?!"
So the frog agreed to take the scorpion across the river. He swam over to the bank and settled himself near the mud to pick up his passenger. The scorpion crawled onto the frog's back, his sharp claws prickling into the frog's soft hide, and the frog slid into the river. The muddy water swirled around them, but the frog stayed near the surface so the scorpion would not drown. He kicked strongly through the first half of the stream, his flippers paddling wildly against the current.
Halfway across the river, the frog suddenly felt a sharp sting in his back and, out of the corner of his eye, saw the scorpion remove his stinger from the frog's back. A deadening numbness began to creep into his limbs."You fool!" croaked the frog, "Now we shall both die! Why on earth did you do that?" The scorpion shrugged, and did a little jig on the drownings frog's back. "I could not help myself. It is my nature." Then they both sank into the muddy waters of the swiftly flowing river.
Self destruction - "It’s my Nature", said the Scorpion...
What happens when leaders allow self-destructive behavior to become a part of their nature? The organization will eventually fail. The entity takes on the personality of the leader. If you follow an unsavory character long enough you will begin to pick up some of their bad traits. It will be subtle at first. But over time, those traits become a part of the culture of the group.
Therefore, it is paramount to follow leaders with integrity, sound character, and strong moral convictions. Enron followed the fate of its leaders. Volkswagen is still recovering from the emissions scandal. Volkswagen not only defrauded customers but the government of the United States. They are paying $15 billion in a court settlement.
The Wells Fargo fiasco (opening accounts without customers’ permission) resulted in: millions of fraudulent acts, lots of swindled customers, a drop in stock price, millions in fines for bad behavior, and the company’s CEO & Chairman hemming and hawing his way through congressional testimony. He eventually resigned. A lack of character has real costs.
Consider this quote from Mike Myatt, Chairman of N2Growth. This applies to businesses, churches, schools, not-for-profits, community organizations, etc.
“Lack of Character: It doesn't matter what your title is, if you don't do the right things for the right reasons you will fail. Leaders who don't display character won't attract it or retain it in others. Leaders who fail to demonstrate a constancy of character won't create trust, won't engender confidence and won't create loyalty.”
In other words, unsavory leaders can and eventually will destroy an organization. People do not leave organizations. They leave people. Make sure you are following a solid leader whose moral compass is fixed on integrity. Don't be a frog supporting a scorpion. And if you are the leader, hold yourself to the highest standard. Make the right choice. Be a person of integrity!