Leadership Starts With Character

By Rich Hopkins

Whether you want to become a leader, or have already earned your way into a position of leadership, your character is the key component to your success. When placed in a management role, one of two scenarios often exists:

A. the manager is a stranger to those they manage, having come in from outside the company, and has prevented other people from moving into the role.

B. the manager is known to everyone they manage, and used to be a peer, resulting in a variety of biases, familiarity issues, and again, has prevented other people from moving into the role.

Even if the new manager is well respected, they are now under greater scrutiny, and boundaries will be tested on both sides of the fence. A leader’s character will determine the level of trust and morale their team can develop, and ultimately the team’s ability to achieve set goals.

Characteristics of a Leader

Transparency – the ability to acknowledge one’s imperfections, and deal with them publicly in such a way as to build trust and honesty among the team. If a strategy or directive fails, take responsibility, and work to make adjustments that suit you and your team while still aligning with corporate goals.

Trustworthiness – remember the “open door” policy must go both ways. Team members will often come to you not to discuss their own issues, but their issues with others. Discouraging backbiting from the outset is important, but when it inevitably occurs, walk out your “open door” and talk to the person being discussed quickly, then bring the parties together if necessary to resolve any issues. Distrust begins behind close doors that never re-open.

Emotional Stability – when mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy. You control the temperature of the office. Your staff looks to you to tell them when to be happy, sad, excited, irate, frustrated and fulfilled. If your office seems to be on an emotional roller-coaster, look at yourself in the mirror first, before blaming those you influence.

Self-Control – handling extreme situations extremely well. Pick your time, environment, and words well ahead of time before dealing with any highly charged situation. Rash conversations and actions are almost always regretted, and difficult to explain, both to team members, and those who lead YOU.

Discipline – reflect the work ethic you expect from your own position. When your team knows you are working as hard as they are, or harder, not only will they work hard, but they are less likely to harbor resentments. If your team starts slacking off when they see you working harder, it’s time to re-evaluate your team.

Hospitable – willing to let people in. You don’t need to invite them over for a barbecue, or start a bowling team, though neither is a bad idea. Let them into your personality, include them in your successes (especially since they might be the source of many of them), and be open about losses (loss of a parent, etc.) – it makes you human.

Knowledgeable – be ready with answers. Know your job, their job, and the jobs of their competitors and clients. Or at least know where they can go to get the answer. Don’t want to be peppered with questions? Train them to find their own answers, and live with the results – or find a new profession.

Generous – with money, time, and most importantly, praise. Give back to your employees without taking credit for doing so. A Friday pizza party is great until the boss takes credit for doing it. Work with your employees one-on-one to mentor them. And always be ready with a compliment – a real compliment. Learn what praise your team-members require; it will be different for each.

Positive – regardless of the circumstances. Never get caught in the undertow – when the leader goes down, the team ceases to function. Be real, and acknowledge setbacks, but always be ready with a solution and encouragement.

Decisive – make timely and informed choices. Morale drops when uncertainty builds. If a new commission structure is being built, either announce it only upon completion of the details, or include your team on the decision-making process, setting a deadline for deployment.

These 10 Characteristics are developed through action and repetition. No one can be perfect in all things, but by striving for these behaviors, we improve ourselves both in and out of the office, and build stronger relationships with our employees, and hence, a stronger team.

Evaluate yourself against this list. Where are your strengths and weaknesses? When have you seen these characteristics fail or succeed in your own leaders? Once you’ve determined where you need to improve, start actively taking new actions and take notes regarding their effectiveness. You will be amazed at the difference. And so will your team.


Rich Hopkins is a speaker, coach, and consultant who aligns his clients with their own potential. He has 20 years of business background in marketing, sales, and customer service. http://www.richhopkins.net

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