The debate over which is more important—leadership skills or leadership character—continues. Which quality has a profound impact over one’s leadership?
I’m always curious when someone believes the answer is skill, and also that they are usually very opinionated and ready to defend their answer. “Without the skill of leadership, things would not get done, visions would not be shared, plans would not be executed, and mentoring others would be useless.” I nod my head because these all are valid points.
Then I ask, “When does someone begin to develop the skills to lead? And when does someone begin to develop their character?”
Big aha moment.
In the leadership development programs that I run, we are teaching skills. The skills needed to move up into leadership roles or skills to prepare the attendees for the [pullquote]These fundamental skills and traits in human beings is what separates good leaders from bad leaders.[/pullquote]additional responsibilities of higher levels of leadership. We do discuss the importance and significance character has on their leadership and the company’s culture.
The skills of leadership begin to develop when we start to work with others in teams and groups. This can happen as a youngster on various sports teams or even in groups working together on school projects. This is where vision, setting goals, delegation, and communication skills are learned and practiced—skills which will be used for a lifetime.
Character begins very early on in childhood; some says as early as infancy. As a small child we begin to learn from our parents the difference between right and wrong, the consequences of lying, how to have empathy for others, and how to trust and be trusthworthy … to only mention a few. These fundamental skills and traits in human beings is what separates good leaders from bad leaders. For example, leaders who lead for the good of the organization vs. the leader who is only fixated on their own agenda.
Character is the foundation to outstanding leadership. If you continually change the story, why would I believe what you just said? If you blame and gossip about others, why wouldn’t I wonder what you say about me when I’m not around? If your character is not something to stand on then it’s cracked. Is your foundation cracked? These types of leaders are the ones that have us leaving our organization and seeking a new organization. One we can trust and grow with.
When Character Really Shows Up
I believe it is easier to use your leadership skills when you have the character to back them up. Doing the right thing is not always the easiest thing to do: to speak up when you know something is wrong, when your words really stand for something, when you speak the truth, or when you can’t be bought. There will come a time when a leader will ask his team to blindly trust in his judgment and move toward the resolution of a big problem. It is during a crisis that you will see someone’s true colors, and the kind of character they represented every day before the crisis. Now the team must get it done.
What kind of leader do you want to be known for: the leader with good skills or the leader with unshakeable character?