This Father’s Day, one of my sons gave me a copy of Gary Waters’ recently released book, “Ten Principles of a Character Coach.” As I enjoyed reading it, I found myself reflecting on the importance of character when it comes to leadership.
We’ve all worked for, and with, people of high integrity and sound principle. It’s also more than likely that each of us has been in an organization where we reported to, or were dependent upon, individuals who compromised – or were inconsistent in applying – core values.
My experience has been that truly high performing teams carry themselves with high cultural standards and operate in a way that makes winning happen the right way. And that starts at the top.
Below are a few of my personal guiding principles when it comes to leading with character and integrity.
High Character Leaders Foster Trust
As my friend Tim Kight at Focus 3 says, trust happens when a leader executes with high character, displays consistent behavior over time, and maintains a high standard for his or her competence. Simply stated, as a leader, you won’t be trusted if you compromise in the area of personal character.
High Character Leaders Reward Transparency and Feedback
The best leaders I have been personally influenced by allowed, and actually encouraged, honest interaction. Secure individuals want to hear the truth – even when it’s not pleasant! Organizations get better with honest and open conversation, and high character leaders ensure that the environment they are responsible for is one that allows for safe sharing of perspectives, ideas and feedback.
High Character Leaders Work for Their Teams
Servant leadership is a phrase that is easier stated than consistently executed. Leaders with high character see their role as one that casts clear vision, then supports and enables the organizations to execute to desired outcomes. This happens when the boss defines his or her success based on the accomplishments of the team.
High Character Leaders Surround Themselves with High Character People
While valuing diversity in perspective and opinion, consistently strong leaders never compromise on talent. They seek like-mindedness in the area of personal values as they form and continue to develop their work groups. And high character team members always seek to work for and around high character people.
High Character Leaders Win the Right Way
Leaders who operate with integrity are able to end each day looking at themselves in the mirror – and their kids, teammates, clients, and patients in the eye – with their heads held high. They know that the essence of winning, however defined, is rooted in the reality that they are committed to win the right way. No short cuts, no compromise of ethical principle, and no rationalizing. They consistently live and work with integrity. They are willing to do things the hard way.
As leaders, we all make mistakes. This is how we learn, stretch boundaries, and find ourselves. Lapses in character, however, aren’t mistakes. Character is a choice. Take a moment to reflect on how your team, and those who depend on you, might describe your character. Hopefully, this is an easy question to answer.
Thanks to my son, Jack, and Coach Waters for the reminder of the importance of character in leadership. Also, thank you to the high character leaders who have influenced me over time!
Jerry L. Kelsheimer is President of Medic Management Group / MMG Healthcare Solutions. His background includes extensive work in areas including business advisory, leadership development, strategic planning, process improvement, and transaction support. MMG is a national provider of consulting services and back office administrative support to independent and system owned physician practice groups. Additionally, MMG has been formally recognized as a multi-year Northeast Ohio Top Workplaces award winner.