The foundation of every successful CEO is leadership. The two other roles (management and entrepreneurship) that make up the 3 essential roles of every CEO builds upon the success of your role as a leader.
In continuing our discussion on the role of the CEO as a leader, here are three essential qualities of effective leadership;
- Character - a life worth emulating
- Vision - an idea to die for
- Competence - expertise in any particular discipline, field or thing
Character is the foundation of effective leadership. This is where it all begins–within. Who you are (character) ultimately defines your success or failure as a leader. And when the leader fails, the whole organization fails. Character is the price you pay as a CEO for the leadership role you play. Being the CEO may confer on you the highest position in a business, but it doesn’t make you a leader.
Being a CEO doesn’t mean you have the capacity to lead. The capacity to lead comes from your character as a person. It is very critical you understand this; your position as a CEO doesn’t confer the capacity to lead. Using your position as a strategy for leading is the definition of autocracy (leadership through force).
True leaders (the kind that makes organizations effective) lead through permission (character) and not by position (authority). This is why character becomes a must.
What is character?
The dictionary defines character “as the stable and distinctive qualities built into an individual’s life which determine his or her response regardless of circumstances.” Here’s another definition of character as given by The United States Air Force Academy which I think best captures the essence of character;
“We define character as the sum of those qualities of moral excellence that stimulate a person to do the right thing, which is manifested through right and proper actions despite internal or external pressures to the contrary.”
The key word to note about this definition is the word ‘sum’ implying that character is not made up of only one thing, but composed of more than one thing. Character means ‘wholeness’. It is the summation of several qualities, behaviours and thoughts that reveals the totality of a person.
Character is not only a question of what a person does (action) it also includes both how you do (attitude) and why you do (thought). Character is the whole of a person; an integration of “what you do” (actions, behaviours); “how you do” (disposition, attitude); and “why you do” (intention, thought).
Character is the map that guides your behaviours, thoughts and actions. Once it is flawed, every other thing else will be flawed. If it’s powerful enough to move you to act (behave) in a certain way (attitude), then it’s really who you are (character). It’s the summation of these three parts that makes up the whole of your character as a person.
This is why when asked to describe a person’s character, most people simply mention certain qualities, attributes or traits about that person ranging from the way he or she thinks (intents or motives), the manner in which they do things (attitudes or dispositions) and what they do (behaviours or actions).
Character, therefore cannot be formed, judged or described in isolation without these three key factors. Why? Because as much as your actions or behaviours (what you do) have some things to say about you, so also does your dispositions or attitudes (how you do) and your intentions or thoughts (why you do). Collectively, they make up who you really are. You cannot separate one part from the other, everything must all add up. Indeed, when it comes to character, everything counts!
Why is character required for effective leadership?
Because every organization takes on the personality of its leaders. Your people are fractional bits and pieces of who you are as their leader. Who you are as a person reflects on the entire organization. So if you happen to be a wrong person as a result of a flawed character, then the whole organization is in jeopardy. You cannot expect to lead the right kind of people that an organization needs to be effective when you are not the right person yourself.
It takes only the RIGHT kind of leader to lead the RIGHT kind of people necessary to achieve the RIGHT kind of results an effective organization desires. This is the ultimate test of your leadership role as a CEO because it takes character to inspire the commitment and efforts of the right kind of people you need to work with in order to succeed. Attracting the RIGHT people required in building a team of high performers demand high standards and you are the first person everyone looks up to as the leader to model these high standards through your character.
As the CEO, do you have the right character to lead? How well have you successfully led yourself? Is your life worth emulating? What is commendable about your existence? Can others proudly look up to you? What makes you worthy of other people’s obedience? What other reasons besides being in the front should make them follow you?
That you’re in the front doesn’t confer the right to lead. Will they still follow you if you were at the back or in the middle among them? If it wasn’t for the salary, will they still come to work for you?
True leadership begins with you. Will they still obey and be loyal to you if you lost the top position? Will they still commit to the dream? Will they still follow if all you have left is your character? Will you still be able to inspire their loyalty if you lose everything else except your life?
There you are; being a CEO has very little to do with position and everything to do with you. The ultimate test of leadership is not power, position, money, talent or skill but character. Who you are as a person speaks louder than the title you bear and the position you occupy.
A CEO without a sound character is a tyrant. The position you occupy and the title you bear will only amplify who you truly are as a person. The king of pigs is still fundamentally a pig, no more, no less.
This is why it’s most crucial that you work on yourself long enough before you step into the position of a CEO. The reality is this; whatever flaw you have in you as a person will be multiplied once you assume any leadership position and whatever strength you possess will likewise be multiplied.
Your position as a CEO will not hide who you fundamentally are; it will only further reveal it. So now is the best time to work on yourself–CHARACTER.
How do you begin to work on your character?
That is a subject for another day; watch out for the continuation “HOW TO DEVELOP THE RIGHT CHARACTER FOR EFFECTIVE LEADERSHIP”. Because this is a series, you need to stay updated by subscribing to naijapreneur! Once you’ve signed up, you are guaranteed to never miss any of our articles because they get delivered straight into your email. SIGN UP TODAY TO GET THE LATEST ARTICLES BY MAIL!
Thanks for reading!
What role has character played in your leadership experience as a CEO? Kindly share your thoughts and comments below.