A Question of Character
Gary Ryan Blair
The genesis of this post began a few years ago when I delivered a presentation
on Leadership to a group Fortune 500 executives. As with every talk or
presentation, I begin by framing a few questions and then build out from there. In
this case, the primary question was, ‘What role does character play in
leadership?” I trust you will enjoy what follows…
Leadership is all about one enduring quality: character. Popularity is temporary;
change is often unpredictable; and interest rates always fluctuate. The one true
constant is a person’s disposition—their character.
Leaders who possess good character are those who -- through repeated good
acts -- achieve an appropriate balance of the virtues in his life. Therefore, like a
successful athlete, the virtuous person plays a consistently good game. As
Aristotle rightly noted, ‘we are what we repeatedly do.’
A company or team’s underlying spirit is created from the top. If an enterprise
conveys a great spirit, its top people display a positive attitude. If it decays,
however, it does so because the top rots; just as a fish rots from the head.
Character is shaped by drive, competence, and integrity. While many leaders
possess the drive and competence necessary to lead, far too many lack the
moral compass. These types of leaders tend to be self-serving, and sabotage the
spirit of an enterprise. As these people assume greater power and authority, it
works to create an Achilles heel of pride and arrogance. This serves only to
erode the trust of followers.
People have an indisputable, divine right to expect and demand good
character and exemplary conduct from their leaders.
The true test and strength of an enterprise is not to be found in a company’s
products or services, but in the character of its leaders. It serves as the
conscience of the community.
Leadership is exercised through character; personality sets the example and is
imitated by others in the organization. Character is not something one about
which can fool people about. A lack of character will “rat out” your true
intentions, no matter how hard you attempt to cover them up.
Good leaders have a strong moral fiber and sound ethics; they do not lie, cheat
or steal. Ethical behavior is not easy; but it is essential to effective leadership.
Ethical leaders are self-confident; not self-centered. There is no gray area when it
comes to character and integrity — it’s foundational. With it, a committed team
can produce outstanding results; without it, there is no respect or moral authority
So, are you the kind of person that others want to follow? The answer to that
question depends on your character. A strong leader sets a strong example. No
one, under any circumstances, should ever be appointed to or accept a
leadership role unless they are willing to have his or her character serve as the
model for others to emulate!