Character: Is It Necessary In Leadership? (Part One)Written by Brent Filson
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Summary: One element of leadership that many leaders ignore or neglect is character. Is it a necessary ingredient in leadership? The author answers question with challenging observation that character can actually drive leadership results.
Character: Is It Necessary In Leadership? (Part One) By Brent Filson
We know character when we see it, but what exactly is it? How do we define it? What role does it play in our getting results as leaders? What role does character play in our careers? In this two part article, I'll explore these questions and give tips on using character to get results and build your career. A key function of character in leadership is to engender trust in people, and function of their trust is to have them take action for results. Few leaders come to grips with challenges of character and so miss great job and career opportunities. Let's start with its root, which comes from a Greek word, "kharakter", a chisel or marking instrument for metal or stone. Our character, then, is our mark engraved into something enduring. We can mold mannerisms, but we must chisel our character. Of course, we don't carry around a stone or a sheet of metal marked with our "character". The enduring thing is aggregate of traits and features that form our apparent individual nature. "Apparent" is operative word. Our character exists not only in and of itself, but also as an appearance to others. The fact that character exists both in us and in minds of other people holds a powerful leadership lesson. To begin to understand what character is all about in leadership, describe five of best leaders in history. Then, list three to five character traits that made each one best. Describe five of worst leaders in history, and list three to five character traits that made each one worst. Now make same lists for people in your industry and your own organization. Did you learn something new about leadership and character? What did you learn? I emphasize new because, in identifying elements that compose character, we come to understand thinking processes that help us form character judgments. Because we commonly make snap judgments about people, we must be aware of how and why we make those judgments, so we can clarify and make better use of them in our leadership. The ultimate character we must be concerned with, of course, is our own. Our character influences our leadership, and through our leadership, our careers. Few leaders make connection between career and character in this way, let alone do something about it. Your doing so will give you a tremendous advantage in your career. We know that it's much harder to see our own character than for us to see character of others. At this point, however, it's unnecessary to try to understand what your character actually is. You need only realize that, for purposes of leadership, your character is forged in values and manifested in relationships. Values are qualities that spur action. Moreover, values are tied to emotions. We feel strongly about values we hold and look to others to hold, and because of such feelings, we're usually acting on our values in one way or another.
Leadership Success and Its Greatest Barrier: the Law of Administrivia Written by Gerald Czarnecki
Years ago, a very wise, and often cynical boss of mine asked me for a definition of management. After reflecting on question I proceeded to give him an intellectually careful and, I thought, accurate definition. He allowed me to complete answer and then came back with his definition which was, “Management is just one darn thing after another.” After having a good laugh, I thought about his remark and concluded that he had basically identified what makes life so challenging for those in leadership positions. The flow of “things to do” never seems to stop.
How often have you gone home at end of a day feeling frustrated because you had accomplished far less than you had planned? How many times has your “To Do” list grown by more items in one day than you marked off in a whole week? For most of us, this has happened far too often.
The larger problem is that “To Do” list we make for ourselves gets longer because somebody else adds to that list…more often than not, our boss. Frequently that list seems to be growing by an endless number of tasks that have more benefit to someone else, and very little benefit to getting our jobs done. While list grows longer with these less critical items, our own list of critical, mission essential items seems to get more and more delinquent.
Most leaders are faced with conflicting priorities and almost invariably somebody else is making decision as to what our priorities must be. It could be a boss, but it can also be a customer, a vendor or even an organizational peer. In short, demands on our time come from many places, and all too often those demands appear to be less essential than our own priorities. The real tragedy, however, is that most of us also opt to complete priorities of others before we accomplish our own. This is not irrational, but it is often wrong choice.
One of long-standing principles in economics is called Gresham’s law. It states that if two currencies are circulating in an economy—one a high-quality currency that everybody trusts and believes in and other a poor-quality currency that everybody thinks has substantial risk—then “the bad currency will drive out good currency.” This means that everybody will want to hoard good currency and give bad to other people whenever they can.
In leading, same principle applies. I call it “The Law of Administrivia.” That Law postulates that… Required or less useful activity drives out desirable and useful activity. In other words, people will do tasks that they think are easy, trivial, and required first, in order to get them out of way. Then, with time left over, they will do what is desirable or useful but not required. In short, people will do trivial administrative tasks (what I term “administrivia”) first just to avoid trouble with boss. Then they concentrate on that which they know to be useful. Unfortunately this creates a dilemma since amount of administrivia grows once boss concludes you are able to handle what you have already been given to accomplish. That boss continues to pile on work.
Eventually you do less and less of what you want or need to do and much more of administrative work. Worse still, since administrivia is usually easy work, while being a leader is hard work, guess which work you end up spending more time on? The easy jobs. After a while, all that gets done is required, trivial, and maybe even useless.