Character Reveals Leadership, Not Your Job Description.

Leadership has many faces and personas. Some of the most successful organizations were lead by individuals that you would not want to emulate or call your friend. Though likeability may not be a prerequisite, at the end of the day, their bank accounts may reveal fiscal success, but their character has shown insufficient funds. Quite often, I have heard the departing comments of executives at their retirements speak in a tone of regret for the time and people they lost in the name of “leadership”. Quite often they have advised young professionals and the future leaders NOT to follow in their footsteps. It was amazing to see these once demanding, unrelenting, selfish and prideful “leaders”, now coming to the realization that with that “leadership” title, his or her character had left them with feelings of solace and regret. Now the very thing that defined them, namely a job description as a leader, is now a static place in time. Besides making the company profitable, did they leave a lasting legacy of leadership?

The great leaders of yesteryear who had character left a legacy. One example of this is John Wooden, “The Wizard of Westwood”. This coach, man and leader, lead countless teams to success with character and conscious leadership. To this day, many of his players base their lives on the principles they learned from him. As a leader, he had to provide clear direction to his team to execute the game plan on the court. Also, he empowered field generals to direct the players on the floor for given scenarios to win the game. Even if the team found themselves in situations that did not follow the game plan or film study, they were equipped to adapt based upon the principles and self-confidence instilled in them by Coach Wooden. This philosophy resulted in over 10 championships, 7 of which were consecutive. He couldn’t play the game for the players, he had to recognize their talents, seen and un-seen and lead them to success. Even though he passed away in 2010, his words, philosophy are celebrated in books, learning institutions, online and through the countless players who went off to be leaders in their professions. Coach Wooden was a leader of character, not a leader defined by a job description. When he died, he was more successful fiscally then he ever was a coach. The focus on quality resulted in a by-product of quantity.

Like Coach Wooden, before you can lead your team, you must assemble the team. Or if you have inherited a team, you must assess their capabilities to embark on a winning campaign. Because of his success as a coach, it had to be easy to recruit players. Ironically, Wooden passed on some of the greatest players. Some of which went on to have successful collegiate careers. Why would he do this? Simply, he was looking for a balance of existing skill-set, but more importantly, he looked at the character and potential of the individual. The embodiment of certain foundational qualities, coupled with a desire to win the right way and skill allowed him to build a dynasty. In the end, he could recognize character because he had character.

To date, what does your leadership reveal? Does your job description define you to the letter, void of the character needed to make an impact? Conscious leadership enables you to impact the professional and personal lives of your subordinates and co-workers. Your example and actions will become contagious and allow for the very principles that you hold important, to influence others. Even if others do not appreciate your desire to lead with character, you will have the personal satisfaction and pride that you lead with character. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be like those executives at their retirement that were filled with regret. Because they let a job description define them, they made little to no lasting impact or legacy. At best, they taught others what not to do versus what to do. Be a leader with character, not one dictated by a job description. It becomes painfully obvious to all who work for you and with you that you are void of character, by sticking to a job description suspended in time. As a result, it will be almost impossible for other people of character to even bring it to your attention that your character as a leader is defunct. It’s wasted energy. It is like putting oil into a seized engine. You will be transformed into the emperor with no clothes. Now, some may say I am naïve, even out of touch with reality. That’s okay with me. If successful leadership is only possible by lack of character, then I respectfully decline. Infinite solitude is a future I do not want. Do you?