Character of a Leader

By Ren Siebenga  |  April 29th

Character is engraved in your being, or as David Brooks says in his book, The Social Animal, it is embedded down deep in your DNA and could date back several generations. Do you ever have it that you respond to something in an uncharacteristic manner and you say to yourself, “where did that come from”? Character is what guides your motivations and your conduct. It narrows your path as you grow stronger and helps you reveal the choices that you have made to those around you. Your character gets revealed as you interact with your circumstances.

What you do when nobody is looking is evidence of character. It points to what the leader will do and will not do. These decisions set the standards for the organization. The people around you have to know something about you for you to lead them well. This just means you must have a reasonably clear identity (revealed character). Through the years, our identity grows partly through exposing ourselves to fresh and challenging experiences, some of which are not always pleasant.

Organizations that thrive on conformity not only to rules but also in the way leaders are supposed to think and act force their leaders to become prophets only of the prevailing wisdom and thus lose their ability to extend horizons. The leaders then become the company persons and have lost the ability to extend the horizons of other people. It seems that leaders must live partly outside of the real world in that part that is given to the world they are creating.