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September 2008 - Leadership Character

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John Kline, PhD, inspirational and motivational keynote and after-dinner speaker and corporate trainer.September 2008

Leadership Character

Last month’s column on competence (what a leader knows) was important. But character (who a leader is) is equally important. Not only do groups do better when their leaders demonstrate positive character; in our era of transparency and disclosure, society judges a group or an organization by the character of its leaders.

Based on answers received from individuals in corporate, business and governmental groups, here, in order, are traits individuals desire most in their leaders.

Honesty. By far and away, honesty is the most admired and desired leadership trait. People want leaders who display sincerity, integrity, candor and unswerving ethics. Followers see no place for situational ethics where right and wrong are determined by the situation or context. They want leaders who’s “word is their bond”—leaders they can trust.

Vision. The proverb says, “Without vision, the people perish.” Followers want leaders who are forward-looking—those with a vision or a mental portrait that guides the group toward a goal. But the vision must be one that prospers the group or organization, not one designed to elevate the leader.

Inspiration. Inspiring, motivating, stimulating leaders get the most out of others. Legendary football coach Paul “Bear” Bryant, war-time leader, Winston Churchill, civil rights leader, Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Biblical judge, Deborah, inspired followers to reach deep inside themselves to accomplish more than most of their followers thought possible. Today, people want leaders who can inspire them to greatness.

Fairness. Followers want leaders who treat them fairly. They want leaders who are sensitive to the individual needs and well-being of followers. When followers sense cronyism, favoritism or unfair treatment of some individuals, they lose faith in their leaders.

Courage. Courageous leaders put courage into others; they encourage them rather than taking courage out or discouraging them. Courageous leaders set an example for others as they persevere and encourage others to stay the course.

Next month, we will consider leadership confidence.

John Kline
Montgomery, Alabama

December 2006 - Motivating Others: Communicate Clearly
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