Character and leadership

To be an effective leader requires one to possess many skills and knowledge. However, one thing is absolutely necessary: character. General Norman Schwarzkopf Jr. said, “Leadership is a potent combination of strategy and character. But if you must be without one, be without the strategy.”  A leader can often hire someone with certain skills that he or she lacks, but he or she cannot hire someone to provide the character the leader needs to be successful.

Character can be defined in many ways, but for me it is seen in the way we keep our word, the way we treat others, humility, honesty, and compassion for others. A person of character doesn’t just believe The Golden Rule is a good suggestion to follow when convenient, but they see it as a way of life that is the foundation for all they do.

Many of us have worked for people we did not respect, and the reason we did not respect them is because they lacked character. We could not depend on them to tell the truth or to do what they said they would do. They treated other people as stepping stones to take them where they wanted to go. Chances are if you worked for such a person you did not always do your best work, and you probably looked for a new employer as soon as you could. Such a person might enjoy success in the short-term, but that success will be short-lived.

Most of the auctioneers I know are people of character. They treat people fairly and with respect and are committed to doing the best job for their clients they can. But, like in any profession there are some who cut corners, who promise more than they can deliver, and some who do not always tell the truth to their clients or their buyers. One person who buys a lot of gold and silver recently told me of a purchase he made at an auction based upon the assurances from the auctioneer that the gold was 14K. When he got home he found it was not gold. He admitted that he should have looked at it before bidding on it, but he was taking the person at his word. He’ll not make that mistake again. I’ve heard similar stories from others who buy at auction.

Character matters. I have lost auctions before because I told the people that their possessions would not bring much at auction. Although the people were disappointed I explained to them I would rather they be disappointed at what I told them than for them to be disappointed after I had sold their possessions for far less than they thought they would bring. In some instances the people had other auction companies sell their items, and as I predicted, they were not happy with the prices they received. However, most of the time people thanked me for my honesty and sought other methods of selling their items.

In recent years we’ve seen the results that occur when people lack character. People have lost their retirement savings because the people they trusted with that money were driven by greed, not character. We’ve seen religious leaders fall due to a lack of character. The same is true of politicians. Many today are leery of believing  news stories due to the amount of fake news found in the media and on social media. People today question whether they can trust anyone in leadership.

This makes it that much more important that we be people of character. People want to follow those they can trust. People want to do business with people they trust. If you want to be respected as a leader be a person of character, and if you are you will enjoy long-lasting success in whatever you do.

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