Leadership matters! Doris Kearns Goodwin, in her new book aptly titled Leadership: In Turbulent Times, emphasizes that great leaders, by combining competence and character, rise to meet seemingly insurmountable challenges.
The tragic events of this week, most recently the shooting in the Pittsburgh synagogue, are further proof that leadership does indeed matter. The choices leaders make, whether to appeal to the humanity and goodness in their followers or appeal to baser instincts, have real world consequences.
How is character developed? It starts with development experiences long before someone becomes a leader. That said, we are not fated or doomed to live out the impact of our earlier experiences. Instead, we each have a choice to grow in maturity and humanity or to remain fixed in immature thinking and behavior.
Character development requires:
- A commitment to grow
- A willingness to uncover and challenge beliefs we have learned and inherited that are harmful or no longer valid
- Mature, skilled and experienced coaches and mentors who can help guide your development
Here are examples of what I mean by developing character:
- Growing in the capacity to judge your worth based on an internal set of moral values rather than the approval of others. This is the necessary foundation for developing leadership courage
- Developing a personal mission that transcends personal aggrandizement, wealth and fame
- Growing in the ability to value and seek to integrate diverse perspectives
- Developing a vision that challenges your followers to utilize their best talents and interests in service of outcomes that benefit your organization and positively impact the welfare of society, the environment and the world
- Cultivating the capacity to be courageous and curious in the face of uncertainty and fear and to respond with intention rather than react with habitual destructive behavior
In these difficult times, each of us can make a difference. We can commit to our own character development. We can develop, with the support of others, the ability to transcend harmful and outmoded ways of thinking and acting. We can communicate a positive and constructive vision and challenge destructive words and behaviors in other leaders or our followers.
Doris Kearns Goodwin reminds us that, particularly in difficult and frightening times, leadership matters! Beginning today, let’s commit (or recommit) to our personal character development and character development in our organizations. Let’s also demand that our elected officials speak and behave with character regardless of our partisan leanings. This commitment, made by all of us, can provide a reason to be hopeful even during these difficult and tragic times.
If you share my passion for this subject, or are interested in learning more about how we guide leaders in their development, I invite you to give me a call or send me an email to continue the conversation!