How to Become a High-Character Leader
Your leadership credibility is heavily tied to your character and competence. While it seems logical to work on improving our competence as a leader, very little is said about intentionally improving our character.
Author Napoleon Hill commented, “The chances are ten to one that if you are devoting some of your time to self-improvement through reading the right sort of books, you are building a character that will be an asset to you in years to come. On the other hand, the odds are just as great that if you are squandering your time in idle amusement and giving no thought to self-improvement, your character will not be improved but may become an embarrassing liability in the years to come.”
WHAT DOES YOUR SELF-DEVELOPMENT LOOK LIKE?
Why would “reading the right sort of books” help build character? Because when you read content about leadership or what other leaders have done, you can learn the positive and negative effects of certain types of behavior. You learn how integrity is developed and demonstrated. You can learn the importance of accountability and taking responsibility for yourself and your team. You can learn the positive effects of empathy in leading people and how resilience plays a role in successful leadership. And most importantly, you witness where leaders invoke courage to exhibit character when it would be easier to take another path.
WHERE DO YOU START?
If you are not already doing so, determine a time when you could invest 15 uninterrupted minutes to read each day. For many leaders, this is in the early morning before the day begins to pick up speed.
Next, establish an Irreducible Minimum to guide your 15-minute time slot each day. An Irreducible Minimum is the minimum you can do that cannot be reduced. For example, you might commit to reading two pages a day, every day. You can always read more, but you can never read less. Many people set big goals (like reading 12 books in a year) and then have trouble finding the time to get started. An Irreducible Minimum is a small goal you would be embarrassed not to do. And the magic is in the daily consistency of completing that small goal.
Finally, determine what it is you would like to read. Perhaps you already have books lying around you’ve been meaning to get to, or you have some idea of titles you would like to investigate. If you’re looking for suggestions, here’s a downloadable list of books I’ve found helpful to my growth.
PAYING IT FORWARD
Once you have established this new routine and intentionally pour into yourself daily, you will be better prepared to pour into others. You can now lead by example in character development and teach these simple ideas to each team member. You might even consider having the team read the same material you are reading and include a short review of what each person is learning during your regularly scheduled team calls.
About Perry Holley
Perry Holley is a coach and facilitator with Maxwell Leadership, as well as a published author. As co-host of the Maxwell Leadership Executive Leadership Podcast, he has a passion for developing others and seeing people grow into the leaders they were intended to become.
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