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Vince Lombardi, legendary football coach, once said, “I don’t necessarily have to like my players and associates but as the leader I must love them. Love is loyalty, love is teamwork, love respects the dignity of the individual. This is the strength of an organization.”

Lombardi called it love, and love definitely has a lot to do with it, I like to call it character.

Leaders who want to build influence with those they lead will serve their needs and that service (and sometimes sacrifice) is built on character.

Warren Buffet had this to say about integrity, and I think we can safely swap the word integrity with character.

“Somebody once said that in looking for people to hire, you look for three qualities: (character), intelligence and energy. And if you don’t have the first, the other two will kill you. Think about it: It’s true. If you hire somebody without (character), you really want them to be dumb and lazy.”

Laziness is not usually what brings down organizations but an absence of character is a killer.

Character is typically categorized as one of those things that you either have or you don’t; however, the character of a leader who serves the needs of his or her people can be built through practice.

To really get a picture of what character looks like in action, here is a list of seven forms of character (inspired by The Servant by James Hunter) and what each one looks like in action.

  • Patience – Although made to look bad by a team member, the leader exhibits self-control and holds her disappointment for a one-on-one conversation
  • Kindness – The leader gives credit when deserved and praises team members without qualifying it with phrases like, “great job, but…”
  • Humility – The leader “is real”, owns up to mistakes they make and acknowledges when they are wrong
  • Respectfulness – Where possible, the leader strives to be transparent with all parties in the decision making process regardless of a team members position or level in the organization.
  • Forgiveness – The leader gives up resentment when wronged
  • Honesty – The leader is truthful about the reality of a difficult situation or requirements of a problem and it never deceptive to accomplish a goal
  • Commitment – The leader stands by people and decisions

There’s not a short cut to character. It requires practice, practice, practice.

In your season of preparation to be a better leader to your team, family, business or organization, take an honest assessment of the seven “character-in-action” behaviors. Which ones need attention and how will you practice?

After some practice, character may come automatically, but it is always a choice to act with character even when you don’t feel like it.

Jeff HarmonJeff Harmon is the president of Brilliance Within Coaching & Consulting which specializes in developing servant leaders while helping them translate their strategies into actionable plans that drive business results. Jeff is the author of “The Anatomy of a Principled Leader.” Jeff has been developing leaders for nearly 20 years and has led the execution of over 100,000 hours of business strategy for information technology, financial services and non-profit organizations.

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