True Leaders are True to Character

There is an inviolable correlation between being true to character and effective leadership.

Learn why in this week’s article, along with 5 ways you can more fully be true to character as a leader.

What It Means to Be True to Character

A leader who is true to character acts in accordance with their values and principles, even when it is difficult. They are honest, true, and have integrity. They are transparent in their dealings with others, and they are fair and ethical in their decisions. They are also accountable for their actions and take responsibility for their mistakes.

Why It Matters

People will respect and trust leaders they know to be honest, true, fair, and ethical. Productivity, collaboration, and morale thrive in the wake of this trust and credibility. People want to be a part of the resulting culture. When people fail the character test, however, productivity, trust, morale, collaboration, and communication all take a big dive!

Case Studies

Violating values is a slippery slope, and a single act can bring down the whole house. Consider Richard Nixon, who tried to illegally spy on his competition (Watergate), and Bill Clinton, who  had an affair with an intern, and then blatantly lied about it. These two people (from both sides of the isle) will be largely remembered for their lack of character. Their careers and reputations never recovered from these violations of trust.

Consider these role models and examples (who are true to character): Gandhi, Amelia Earhart, Winston Churchill, Nelson Mandela, Margaret Thatcher, Eleanor Roosevelt, Mark Cuban, Mother Teresa, Meg Whitman, Jack Welch, Rosa Parks and others that may come to your mind.

Consider the examples of those who failed the character test: Harvey Weinstein (Hollywood producer), Bernie Madoff (Ponzi scheme mastermind), Elizabeth Holmes (Theranos founder), Sam Bankman-Fried and Caroline Ellison (FTX founders), Jeffrey Epstein (convicted sex offender), O.J. Simpson (actor), Jeffrey Skilling (Enron CEO), and oh so many more.

Which group are you in? The top or bottom group? Don’t leave your character to chance, develop it, and here’s how.

How to Be True to Character

Here are some ways to be true to character and never allow yourself to fall down that slippery slope:

  • Know your values and principles. What is important to you? What do you believe in? Make a list. Write your values down, share them, memorize them, and keep them forefront of mind so that your decisions, actions, and thoughts are firmly and consistently value-driven. The more you live by your values, the easier it becomes!
  • Be honest and transparent. Be honest with yourself and with others. Be transparent about your decisions and the reasons behind them.
  • Be accountable for your actions. Everybody makes mistakes. The person of character owns their mistakes, takes responsibility, and learns from them.
  • Be open to feedback. Be willing to listen to feedback from others, even if it is negative. Use this feedback to improve yourself and your leadership.
  • Work on one virtue per week. Benjamin Franklin was famous, among other things, for his character. Why? Because he worked on it. He listed 13 virtues he wanted to define his character, and worked on one each week. There are 13 weeks in a quarter, so he’d work on one principle/virtue for four weeks each year. For those using a BYB planner, there is a place to similarly focus on a “Principle of the Week” and develop your character. Use this space if you have a BYB planner.

Wrapping Up

There is a very strong correlation between knowing your values and being true to them (being true to character) and effective leadership. Always, the best leaders are true to character. So, know your values, never violate them, be honest, be accountable, and don’t leave your character to chance — develop it by working on your virtues, just as Benjamín Franklin did, and you too will be remembered as a person of great character.

“Not many people can claim to be free of worry and stress, and there are ways to find peace and balance in the midst of chaos and the daily rush of life. You can find peace and balance each and every day. You don’t have to wait until all your challenges and stresses have passed. Peace is always yours to claim.” – Steve Shallenberger

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