As our world becomes more complex, with more activities and beliefs tugging for attention on the world stage, what difference does leadership make? And why would anyone promote a particular type of leadership?
I wrote a couple of years ago that there are only two sources of leadership: that which comes from our position and that which comes from our character, our “who-we-are.” Character isn’t a list of traits or behaviors. Character comes from a Latin word that means image. Our character is who we are on the inside.
A friend once said his training as a triathlete changed when his attitude changed from practicing for a triathlon to deciding he was a triathlete. There is a difference between attempting a triathlon and becoming a triathlete. There is a difference between teaching a lesson and being a teacher. And there is a huge difference between leading some group or activity and being a leader.
Being a leader produces four key outcomes that will help your team or organization thrive:
- Your behavior emanates from who you are. Your actions and your perception of yourself will align. The integrity will free you to lead, to correct your behavior and to improve your results. You’ll be open to criticism because it will help you improve. You’ll get up more times than you’re knocked down because that’s who you are.
- You’ll energize yourself. There’s inner peace that comes from being who you are. You will develop integrity as you line up your behavior with your desire to be a leader. That growth and integrity will energize you and bring life and energy to your environment. You’ll have energy to invest in others because of what that investment does for them, not simply for what it might do for you. You’ll find yourself appreciating people more and criticizing less. Your “who you are” will look for ways to energize your team.
- You will invest more than you withdraw. As a character-based leader, the investment you make in your team is you. Taking more than you give creates an every-man-for-himself environment. Being a leader doesn’t mean being a drill sergeant; it means learning to influence others to freely choose to participate. No sales or manipulation will produce people who freely contribute for the long run. Only investing in the lives of others will create genuine allies — those who will become loyal, honor their commitments and stay in for the duration. Character-based leaders are leaders; they give their best “self” to make a positive impact.
- The circle of life will energize the team. Your investment in others will encourage them to do the same. Their investment in the team and in the other members will multiply the energy and results of the group. By leading from who you are, and bringing life to your team, they bring life in return to you, your team and your customers. Sustainable long-term positive results for your team result from each team member benefiting from their involvement.
Those outcomes are yours, if you choose. But you must first decide to stop acting like a leader. Will you be a character-based leader?
Mike Henry is chief instigator of the Lead Change Group, a nonprofit global community dedicated to instigating a leadership revolution. He’s also co-author of “The Character-Based Leader: Instigating a Leadership Revolution … One Person at a Time.”