A good friend had asked me to write him a letter of recommendation for his MBA application so I thought how do I make this different and yet meaningful. I thought of a few words that described this person very well and both began with the letter “c”. I thought for awhile and wondered if there were more “c” words that defined leadership and specifically character, which, in my mind is a key underpinning of leadership. Surprise, I came up with a whole slew and they highlight the principles of leadership very well. Think about it….because they are all very important in defining a leader.
Character Let’s start with the word ‘character” itself. My friend had told his brother “character is built in the places no one sees you”. I thought about that for awhile when the statement was made. Character defines who we are as a person, how we interact with others and make others feel at home or at ease with us. It is what others think of us, not as much as what we think of ourselves. Character is determined by others. Trustworthiness is a part of character. It is a being. So the saying above is so cool because it is about others and not you. The quicker you realize that the easier this journey of life becomes.
Commitment I have often mentioned to my children that once you commit there is no going back. This is an attribute that the world needs more of. In my day to day dealings with the rest of the business world I am constantly reminded of the lack of commitment in today’s world. I like to use the phrase ‘that your word is your bond.” That assumes first that you can make a commitment. Broken promises, missed meeting, not delivering what you said you would deliver. The world needs commitment. Deliver on your promises, as simple as they may be.
Compassion Compassion is so lacking in today’s business world. What if we actually cared about one another’s well being? What if we were actually interested in the plight of another human being? What if we tried to walk a mile in their shoes? When I was a young manager I had a employee who was a little rough around the edges. Bonnie wasn’t so much a problem to me but she certainly was to others and I received a lot of complaints about what was perceived as her “attitude.” I sat with Bonnie and got to know her. She was a product of a very dysfunctional life. Her mother had died early on and her father lost her to foster care. Her father was now homeless and lived on the street and was an alcoholic. She had a tough time finishing high school after being switched from different foster homes. Of course, she never had the opportunity to attend college. I made the commitment to work with her on taking the rough edges off and we were successful but only successful because she wanted to be. Compassion from a leader was not something she had ever known. How many Bonnie’s have you run across in your working career? You will never know unless you learn to ask the right questions. Give it a try sometime and learn some compassion for another.
Creativity Why stifle creativity? Why not encourage it and then enhance it? What can you possibly be afraid of? You must be curious to achieve creativity. Creativity is what solves the world’s problems. It is what gives us new frontiers to explore and new mountains to climb in the business world. Why do we want to put it down? We shy away because we are afraid of what we don’t know. Love what you don’t know. I guess I am a pretty lucky person because I have come to realization that at 58 years of age I realize just how much I don’t know and just how much I learn from every individual I come in contact with if I choose to listen and learn.
Conviction In most cases we manage by gut feel. We know what is right and what is wrong. What is fair and just and what is wrong. If you believe it stand up for it. Take the hits if you are convinced you are right. Too many people today back away from the tough decisions and that limits their success and fulfillment. I love people who have compassion and stick to dong the “right thing” whether it is the popular decision or not.
Credibility Be credible in everything you do. Be believable and be consistent. Followers love leaders that are credible. Why?…because they always know what to expect. Reason is a key component of credibility. Everyone can accept reason as a logical explanation of any problem. Having credibility and it takes time to build credibility allows the leader to move forward with his or her master plan and allows for everyone to develop understanding.
Curiosity Always wonder “what if?” I enjoy my time alone in the car or on a plane daily. It allows me to put on my “what if” cap. Now this ties directly into being creative, compassionate as well as defining just who you are (your character—my, isn’t this where we started?) But being curious is a key attribute of leadership. Imagine if Bill Gates had not been curious about the power of computing, Steve Jobs about putting the power in your hands to execute daily commerce in your smart phone, Ben Franklin hadn’t tied the key to the end of his kite string (OK, maybe a stretch) or Thomas Edison and his fascination with generating electricity and power and so much more. It’s the fact that we are curious that will let us think about the endless possibilities of solving our problems. So be curious.
So be a difference maker but do it the right way. Utilize the skills you have developed as a leader and fine tune them into your “story.” Your story can be very different than others or it can be the same. Use the seven C’s of leadership to define who you are. You will be happy with the transition.