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Sing a character song: 8 qualities that build strong character




Sing a character song: 8 qualities that build strong character

Whether we run a business or live our lives, character gives meaning, value and vision to the world around us. It guides and centers us us.

Character consists of many tones. We don’t all have to sing at the same pitch; that would be impossible, and honestly not melodic at all. But in order to sing a leadership song that is rich, resonant and harmonious, certain notes must be sung by all of us. These common traits of good character combine to create strong leaders.

1. Honesty

Do you always speak the truth and behave honorably, even when no one is looking? If you fall short (and we all do at times), what tools and resources, both internal and external, do you have at hand to get you back on track and in control? Can you be trusted to correct yourself? And how do you train your employees to be the most honorable people they can be? How is honesty woven into the fabric of your organizational culture?

Perseverance means determination and the will to succeed, because hard work is, well, hard! You have to step in and do it without excuses, without pity, without turning back just because something is difficult.

When I was 25 years old, my company moved to Europe. When I arrived at my new apartment, I was tired, lonely, hungry and confused because after a twelve-hour flight from the airport I had to drive on the ‘wrong’ side of the road… in a stick-shift, which was new to me! And then I locked myself out of the flat! I sat on the curb, with tears in my eyes, and thought: Maybe I made a mistake. Maybe this step just wasn’t the right one for me. Maybe I’m not up to the task.

But then I forced myself to tap into that “gritty place” deep inside me, where my self-confidence, resilience, and determination lived. Somehow I got up, wiped my tears and found a way to my new apartment. And in that moment I launched my life as a leader.

3. Humility

As you lead and live, remember that it is not about always being right; it’s about always doing the right thing. Leaders must be sure that our employees know that we are aware of our own shortcomings and weaknesses. When we criticize or take a little too much With great pleasure in proving someone wrong, we sell ourselves, the people we lead, and the companies we work for short.

In reality, it feels great to openly admit to an employee, “You were right, and I was wrong. Thank you for teaching me.” It feels even better when you make this healthy confession in front of a group!

4. Openness

Resist the urge to surround yourself only with people who agree with you, who repeat what they know you want to hear, and who are more interested in seeking your approval than expressing their own unique voices and concerns.

And even in addition to resisting surrounding ourselves with sycophants, we must also actively seek express differing opinions and encourage different ideas. Leaders who are comfortable, confident, and intelligent enough to seek out opinions different from their own have learned how to move beyond their own interests and egos and stand in a bigger place.

Be careful, though, because our unconscious biases can tempt us to place more value on the employee who is always friendly than on the one who occasionally (and respectfully) rejects the status quo. The trick is to retrain your brain so that it doesn’t react negatively to opposition or to opinions that differ from yours.

“Be more concerned about your character than your reputation, for your character is what you really are, while your reputation is only what others think you are.” – Johannes Houten

5. Neutrality

Gossip, blaming, and backbiting are both mean-spirited and inappropriate for a leader. Rising above such petty activities is noble and necessary – but not sufficient. Leaders must also rise and conquer by eliminating the culture that encourages such negativity in the first place and creating an environment of zero tolerance. If you see or hear it happen, shout it out. Take a stand. Discipline and/or remove employees who exhibit this harmful and demoralizing behavior.

6. Boldness

In the workplace, uncomfortable situations will arise that require your attention, discernment and involvement. It’s always best to address these issues head-on, not only for the well-being (and growth) of your employees, but also to explore and expand your leadership skills.

When I started a new job early in my leadership career, I had an employee who I was told needed to be fired immediately. However, I decided that before taking action, I would assess the situation for myself.

During the first meeting I attended with this employee—a large meeting involving numerous managers and the company’s CEO—she fell asleep. Really asleep! Then I immediately took her aside and respectfully but firmly told her that if she wanted to continue to grow in her work and be successful professionally, falling asleep in a meeting would not cut it! I said that if it happened again – or if it became clear that she was not performing her duties – she would be fired.

I encouraged her to think about what other issues might be at play; maybe there was something she was missing.

Well, she went to the doctor shortly after and learned that she had severe diabetes, which was causing her extreme fatigue. With that news, she thanked me for being honest but respectful, for handling an uncomfortable situation with dignity, compassion, and grace, and for “waking her up” – in more ways than one.

7. Investing in others

For a variety of reasons, managers and leaders are often reluctant to provide meaningful and ongoing feedback to their employees. But we should view feedback not as a quarterly obligation or an annual, paperwork-related obligation, but as an ongoing investment in our people and a constant part of our organizational culture.

How will your team be led and guided without this? How do they know when to adjust and/or recalibrate? The manager who does not provide open, honest feedback to every employee, regardless of their protected class or status, is doing a serious disservice to that employee and the organization.

8. Courage

Often the worst experiences yield the most valuable lessons. Know what not doing often informs and guides our thinking as we evaluate what we do should Doing.

I think back to my first romantic relationship, when I was a teenager. In retrospect, he was terrible: controlling, demanding, jealous, and dominant. But even when the relationship turned violent, I stayed. It took me a while and an extraordinary amount of courage to finally walk away from that toxic relationship.

I often felt ashamed and disappointed in myself for having to endure the pain and humiliation for so long. But today I understand the essential, lasting life lessons I learned from that relationship, lessons that I carry into my leadership experience.

That profound negative experience taught me profound positive lessons. I have learned a lot about what kindness is by seeing what kindness is not. Courage in adversity has its own lessons.

Mastering these character notes will help you grow as a leader. You may encounter a little dissonance every now and then (we’re all human!), but just keep practicing and you’ll bring harmony to your life and work.