Leadership is the result of the combination of character and competency. Character is the far more important ingredient.
“It’s what’s inside that counts” may sound like a trite marketing statement. But leadership is influence and that influence is based on establishing a relationship of trust between leader and followers. Followers want to know that their leader is capable and competent. They want to have confidence that the leader can make good choices and guide positive change. But before they place trust in the skills of the leader, they must first be able to place their trust in the person of the leader. They need to see what is inside.
Another popular saying is appropriate here. “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” Followers entrust their careers, their livelihood, even their health and safety into the control of a leader. Before they are willing to go all in they need to see the character of the leader and make a judgement as to the trustworthiness of the person. Character shapes the relationship that leaders have with followers. It is the foundation of a trusting relationship.
Character can be defined as the traits, values, and virtues that guide the decisions that a person makes. It is what’s inside a person that defines how they will interact with others. Some of the most important character traits necessary to build this relationship of trust are the following:
- Forward-looking / Vision
- Positive outlook / Confident / Inspiring
- Results oriented
- Empathetic / Caring
- Openness / Approachable / Personable
- Flexible / Resiliency
- Principled / Integrity
- Authenticity / Vulnerability
Without the character of leadership followers will hold back their loyalty and commitment. The results then are a half-hearted effort, limiting productivity and innovation.
Both character and competency can be learned or built, but character requires more effort. Building competency is a matter of learning new skills. Building character is more often a matter of changing what we think and who we are.
Do you have the character of a leader? How are you further developing your character to become the best leader possible?