Character can be described as what you do or who you are when no one is looking. Character is defined as the sum of virtues, values and traits. It is what lies behind how we think and act.
Sometimes leadership is described with the terms competency, commitment, and character. Competency describes what you can do, commitment points to what you want to do, but character defines what you will do. In other words, we lead from who we are.
The word character comes from the Greek, “KHARAKTER”, which is a chisel or marking instrument for metal or stone. Our character is our mark engraved or inscribed into something enduring. As described by Brent Filson, “we can mold mannerisms, but we must chisel our character.” Our character is formed over time through life experiences and is not easily rewritten.
Our character can be viewed in two realms – internal and external. The internal realm is comprised of our core beliefs and values whereas the external realm includes those character traits in evidence in our words and actions. These two realms are not always in complete congruence. People respond to what they see and hear—the external realm of character or our apparent nature. Since followers only see the apparent or external character, this is the measure of character on which they must base their trust or lack thereof.
There are hundreds of traits that define character and we all have a mix of them at various levels. People seek leaders who demonstrate strong, positive character, especially in the following areas:
- Integrity, authenticity, trustworthiness
- Visionary, forward-thinking
- Inspirational, motivating, positive
- Candor, transparency
What do people see when they examine your character?