Powering up the 10 "C"s of Leadership.....Blog #2- Character... Mark ONeil, FACHE, CPCC, ACC
Updated: Sep 28
As with most executive coaches, I have sometimes been overwhelmed with the immense amount of literature that is published on the topic of leadership. Since retiring after a career as a healthcare CEO, I have done my best to continue to grow in my understanding of the characteristics of great leadership and have read broadly and deeply on the topic. I have also observed firsthand, both while working as a healthcare CEO and while coaching, several individuals who, in my mind, absolutely fit the bill.
My hope is to expand on my thoughts accompanying this list and am sure that as time goes by,
I’ll be refining it some. Those of you who read my previous blog “THE TEN ‘C’s OF LEADERSHIP”,
know that I want the list to “breathe”, as I receive input from my readers on the topic. There are however, two criteria that I don’t intend to change because of my belief that these two criteria are a must for a great leader. On my list, they are the first criteria and the last; CHARACTER AND COURAGE. In this Blog, I intend to talk about character.
LET’S REMIND OURSELVES OF THE LIST:
1. CHARACTER 6. COMPETENT
2. COMMUNICATOR 7. COLLABORATIVE
3. CULTIVATOR 8. COLLEGIAL
4 . COMPASSIONATE 9. CURIOUS
5. CONFIDENT 10. COURAGEOUS
NOTE: A CAREFUL READ OF THIS WILL SHOW THAT I HAVE ALREADY MADE SOME CHANGES TO THE LIST, (IN BLOG #1) BASED UPON YOUR INPUT
Great Leadership begins and ends with Character. It is defined in many ways, but the one I prefer most is how someone behaves when no one is looking. Simple enough, but let’s look some of the other components of this key leadership trait. Character embodies the core values that drive a person’s life and the principles that he/she lives by. While we are all a bit different, great leaders have some things in common with character.
1. DO THE RIGHT THING:
Character says that a leader will always attempt to do the right thing. That is easier said than done. The right thing is not always evident. Sometimes it is a matter of making a decision that has the least amount of negative impact on the least number of people and the organization. Doing the right thing consistently builds belief in a leader’s credibility, even when he/she makes mistakes. So a great leader will recognize and be forthright about the sometimes negative impact of doing the right thing.
2. DEMONSTRATE INTEGRITY:
An always present partner of character is integrity. Building a reputation as having high integrity is a straight forward process. Being honest, even when it is difficult, quickly builds trust which brings credibility and subsequently allows people to feel comfortable following. It takes a long time to build a reputation for integrity and a very short time to loose it.
At its core, integrity is one of the few characteristics that cannot be taken away from you. You must surrender it, by making ethical compromises over time, short-changing the truth, blaming others for your mistakes, or being less than honest. It’s a slow process, often starting with minor compromise of core values, until such time as people notice. By then it is too late to recover from the fatal flaw of having little or no integrity. I’ve had debates with colleagues about this and would love to hear your thoughts. At bottom though, how many of us know someone who we determined lacks integrity and we were still willing to follow?
3. DEMONSTRATES PROGRESSION THROUGH THE FIVE LEVELS OF LEADERSHIP:
In his book The Five Levels of Leadership, John Maxwell, the prolific author and speaker on leadership looks at five levels of leadership that great leaders go through.
Starting with POSITION, which is the basic level which is given to us by simply being appointed to a position and requiring little else.
Going up the ladder from there, one first obtains implicit PERMISSION to lead basically because followers want to follow.
Then people follow a leader because of what he/she has accomplished for the organization, or the concept of PRODUCTION. Is the leader getting results and do the followers feel part of that success?
PEOPLE DEVELOPMENT AND PINNACLE are achieved by the fewest number of leaders, because it has to do with what the leader has done to help an individual grow as part of the organization and as a person. This is the space in which a good executive coach can be of assistance, because a coach focusses on the aspirations of the whole person. In my mind only great leaders who are also great mentors reach this level.
4. LOOKS FOR BOTH CHARACTER AND CAPABILITY:
Often times, organizations find themselves favoring the capabilities and experiences of a potential colleague and leaves figuring out character for later. So we often choose the capabilities of a potential colleague and find out when it is too late that there is a character flaw. These are hard to find in an interview process, but search firms and HR professionals have tools to improve the chance of success.
Go through this exercise: Name one leader that you know who fits the above attributes. Try it for several categories of leaders (business, political, academic, spiritual, philosophical, historical). Name them. What about them stands out for you in regards to the all important attribute of character.
MORE ON THE LIST IN FUTURE BLOGS. I'D APPRECIATE YOUR INPUT IN CONSTRUCTING THE FULL LIST AND WHAT YOU CONSIDER KEY COMPONENTS OF LEADERSHIP. I WILL INCLUDE YOUR THOUGHTS IN FUTURE BLOGS.
LET ME KNOW IF I CAN BE OF HELP TO YOU OR ONE OF YOUR TEAM AS A TRAINED AND CERTIFIED EXECUTIVE COACH WITH 40 YEARS OF LEADERSHIP EXPERIENCE IN THE HEALTHCARE FIELD. CONTACT ME FOR A FREE CONSULTATION.