terry lige character of leaderhship

The Character of Leadership

We are all Leaders

First of all I believe that we are all leaders. Whether I like it or not I am modeling behavior that is on display for everyone I interact with in my life. I feel the responsibility of modeling behavior most acutely with those who are closest to me, especially my children as they were growing up and now my grandchildren who are watching me closely.

My Choice

The choice I have as an individual is to determine whether I want to be a leader by default of a leader by design. In other words, am I going to be conscious and intentional about my attitudes and behaviors or am I going to just respond to life as it flows at me without much consideration for what I do or how I do it. Either way, the fact remains, someone is watching me and in some cases choosing to emulate my attitudes and behaviors.

I like what my son Nathan said on the golf course this past week when he said, his daughter Sabine is more like his dad but his son Jake was probably more like his grandfather. My first thought was, that’s nice, but my next thought was, heaven help Jake.

I want to clearly acknowledge that I am only human and have made many mistakes as a person and leader in my personal and professional journey, however, I do care about the example I set for those I care about. As a leader by design, I also have to care about the example I set for people I do not care about. The point of leadership is that I am leading someone somewhere. I have to ask myself where am I leading them and am I willing to fully embrace that responsibility.

My Character

Maybe the most important question is; what kind of person do I want to be? And, this question points me to issue of my character. So much of leadership concerns the issue of character development.

So, what is character and why is its development so important to me? Here is a definition.

“Character is the stable and distinctive qualities built into an individual’s life which determines his/her response regardless of circumstances.” My character is vitally important because it is foundational to every decision I make. What this definition tells me is that my responses are not dependent on what is happening to me externally. Regardless of the challenges life has in store for me, I will respond to those challenges from a motivation built on moral values and principles.

This tells me that I am in control of my life. The one thing that I have any real control of is the choices I make. When I make appropriate choices, I will create my desired outcomes; when I make poor choices I will reap the negative consequences of those choices. Regardless of which choices I make, I acknowledge that they are my choices and nobody else’s.

What this also tells me is that I am fully responsible for those choices and accountable for my outcomes. I am not a victim to my life and the choices of others. It is my life.

The more I am in touch or connected to my character, the more I respond intuitively to those external challenges. I don’t have to think about doing the right thing. I just do it because it is an expression of who I am and what is important to me.

I was in a meeting a few weeks ago where my intention was questioned for doing the work I do. The inference is that I am more concerned about making money than about helping people. That is very difficult to hear and my first instinct was to defend myself and explain fully why I do what I do and provide all kinds of examples of how my behavior lined up with my intention. However, I knew immediately that what was being said was not the truth about me and I chose not to get irritated and defensive. I walked away from that meeting feeling at peace with myself because I chose to respond in a way that I felt was in keeping with who I am as a person and as a leader. A few of those powerful internal qualities that supported my behavior in that moment were patience, humility, self control, discernment, composure and self respect.

Poor Choices

People who consistently make poor, inappropriate decisions do not build on those stable and distinctive internal qualities. They are blown to and fro by what is happening in their external lives and do not have enough confidence in their character to make the hard choice and do the right thing. By the way, confidence is one of those character qualities I am talking about.

Unfortunately, when we lack strength in our character we become more susceptible to the dark side of our nature. And our shadow is drawn to what is destructive to us. The struggle we have with addictions is an excellent example of this. We can make up all kinds of stories about why we struggle with addictions but the only way to overcome them is to build the necessary character to make the hard choice and do the hard thing.

Theodore Roosevelt once said; Character, in the long run, is the decisive factor in the life of an individual and of nations alike.”

 I am committed to working on this decisive factor the rest of my life. How about you?

In next week’s blog we’ll talk about what some of those character qualities are, beginning with integrity.


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