Impactful Character

It was the phone call I remember getting from my boss in early 2004, “Gary, you are going to face some interesting challenges in the coming months”. He was referring to an incoming Vice President to the organization I was supporting in my HR leadership role. He went on to say the person coming had been very successful during his time with the organization however it had not come with some hiccups along the way.

When the name was mentioned, I knew right away what I was getting or at least what I thought I was getting. I had heard everything from, cavalier, to cowboy, to conflict, to doing it my way or the highway, in terms of associated behavior.What I came to learn over the next two years taught me more about myself  and served to unleash my own potential through impactful leadership.

In the world of leadership development, a lot of emphasis is placed on understanding the character traits of a great leader. I believe that this is a profitable and important undertaking, but I think that in order to fully understand the characteristics of a great leader, you have to also understand how that leader communicates those characteristics. How does a great leader transform a culture and imbue it with ethical integrity?

I believe there are three ways to effectively communicate your character in a manner that is consistent with high ethical integrity.

The first way is to be authentic. Communicating character in a way that is genuine and without pretense only stands to affirm integrity, which itself is a part of great character. People can quickly pick up on someone who is attempting to present with good character, but at their core does not truly represent the characteristics they claim to value.

The second way is to be intentional in your decisions and interactions. Just as you want to have authentic character, it is just as important that you are intentional about having great character. Being of great character means intentionally communicating thoughtfulness, consideration, and value. It says that you care enough about the impact of what you do, to carefully consider its toll on yourself, and those around you.

Lastly, be enthusiastic about building great character. Inspire and challenge others to grow personally and professionally. By definition enthusiasm is about being intense in enjoying something. Do not be afraid to be intense about the joy of seeing others built up and inspired!

The new Vice President and I met on his first day in the office. The first thing I recognized was his authentic being, I mean true authentic being. There was no mask, no hidden agenda, no political motivations, just an intense passion to lead the group he had been trusted with and build a successful, sustainable platform of high performance.

Over the course of the next two years, business decisions had to be made that impacted people’s lives – some were very difficult. During that same time, there were others who were inspired to stretch themselves, learn, and grow.  Through all of it, the Vice President I had come to call a mentor and friend felt it, and everyone knew it. He was passionate about not only the business but the people. This was powerful and it transformed our workplace into a high performing, deeply caring culture.

Since that time, we have both moved up and onward in our careers. The phone call I had initially received was spot on. It was challenging and there were hiccups along the way – you can expect that when you set out to unleash leadership potential.  As you effectively communicate your character through actions and intent, the culture around you will be transformed. It is in developing strong character in ourselves that we are able to model the way for others. You know your moral compass is pointing in the right direction when you help others unleash their potential through your impactful leadership.