What is “Leadership Character?” According to Fred Kiel’s recent book, Return on Character, the following are the top 8 character traits of great leadership:
- Displayed and demanded high moral principles.
- Embraced a worldview of positive beliefs.
- Developed a higher level of mental complexity.
- Sought out and listened to critical feedback from others.
- Found and enjoyed the company of one or more mentors.
- Demonstrated the ideas and behaviors of self-determination.
- Virtuoso leaders know their life story.
- Sought and accepted help from many supportive people since childhood.
Interestingly, these are not dissimilar to the characteristics discussed in my last two blog posts. Bottom line is good leadership leads to growth in organizations and a return on assets for the investors. Kiel interviewed over 100 CEOs and was able to quantify it to a return of 5 times – much higher than most would have guessed.
I’ll take the concept of Leadership Character one step further and say that it ties into one’s values. It’s all about living those inside and outside the organization. Although I work with leaders on a daily basis, I continue to be surprised when I ask the question, “what are your values?” how few people can answer in a succinct manner. We usually get there after some discussion, but if Kiel’s research is correct, it’s important for leaders not only to know their values, but be able to craft a story that communicates them clearly.
People WANT to follow leaders they believe in and who believe in them. The best way to share that is through your story. We are humans and we understand “stories” better than any pitch on earth. We see ourselves in stories. We identify with the values being shared and we form a belief about the character of the person in the story.
In addition to knowing one’s story, knowing that you need more information, that you may not always be right, and that the best solutions are those reached collectively, also seem to be common traits of leadership character. This is why good leaders are always looking for “other opinions” both from within and without the organizations. Of course, implementation or execution is the place most organizations get tripped up, but when the “plan” has been collectively decided on, the chances of successful implementation are definitely increased.
Lastly, leaders who have good character, look for mentors. Mentors provide them with additional information, feedback, and inquiry so they can be the best they can be. Mentors also hold them accountable, which good leaders seek out.
When you think about your Leadership Character – are you clear about your values? Your story? Do you have a mentor? If you take a little time to think about it and adopt these traits the benefits to your organization could be as much as 5x the return on investment.