An enormous amount of concentration has been spotlighted on the ethics, values, and beliefs of today’s Leaders.  The world is clamoring for Leaders to set the standard of what is

Lack of Individual Character

virtuous and authentic.  Companies have been forced into developing obligatory governance and ethics policies in an attempt to verify their collective contrived morality.  These guiding principles are designed to control the actions and profit motives of the organization.  Unfortunately, this righteous battering of our institutions has only served to dissuade the accountability of personal actions from individuals to the un-accountability of monolithic non-human entities.  The masses easily point to the corruption of the Corporation, the Government, or the Society as the “root of all evil” and painlessly exculpate themselves from the personal responsibility of accountability.  A societal top-down expectation of morality has developed allowing individuals to “sit back and wait” for ethics and values to come to them.

Much has been espoused regarding the significance of Character as a requisite for a Good Leader.  Yes, if you do not comport and demonstrate a Strength of Character, you will never truly Build and Lead an A-Team.  And with People as the key differentiator in today’s competitive business universe, you must compile an A-Team of Players for you and your business to succeed and prosper. But Character at the Top of an organization does not propagate Values throughout the ranks.  Character is not transferable.  The distinctive Character of an Individual is the building block to the Values of any organization or institution.

In today’s politically charged culture we are admonished for judging others.  We are to be understanding of the failures of virtue of those around us and give deference to the possibility of circumstances they may have encountered.  But if you aspire to excel as the Leader of an A-Team, you must embrace the obligation of judging the Character of others.  As I have said before, it is not your job to fix people.  A Street Smart Leader is not a builder of character; he is a Collector of Character!

A man’s character is his fate
Heraclitus

Character represents those attributes we expect our employees to stride through the door with. They include integrity, work ethic, quality, caring, accountability responsibility, cooperation, etc.  Character goes beyond just knowing what is right and perseveres in “doing what is right”.  Character is a habit which defies adversity and prevails with fortitude.  Leaders can count on people of Character to make the right decisions in the tough “moments of truth” even if it does not personally benefit them at the time.  People with Character allow you to focus on productive solutions instead of emotional motives.

The accomplishment of a great many things is possible with Intelligence, Skills, and Attitude alone.  So why is Character so vital?  First, Character assures that you and your team will embark on endeavors that are the “right things”.  Secondly, it is the presence of Character that makes sure those “right things” are actually successfully implemented through accountability and work ethic.  Character transcends one’s best intentions and is finally defined by one’s actions.   It is the fundamental difference in why we do, what we do.

Character is an A-Team Requirement

A Leader’s time can be “sucked dry” with people-issues emanating from Character related non-performance and drama.  Employees who simply fail to do what they are “supposed to do” create a ripple effect around them which proliferates and disrupts the entire team.  Eventually these diverters of productivity necessitate management’s time.  A Leader can teach someone a new skill and act to rectify an attitude lapse, but once a violation of Character takes place, trust is permanently lost.  Without trust, a Leader has no choice but to micro-manage an employee in an atmosphere of growing resentment and frustration.  His focus moves from enhancing performance to “fixing up” situations fraught with emotions.  Take notice of the amount of failures that are Character related.  Start accounting for the squandered time you spend on these worthless and wasted lost causes.

The force of character is cumulative.
Ralph Waldo Emerson

It is tempting for Leaders to become trapped into trading off Character for short term performance achievement.  Extraordinary performance is possible by extremely talented employees who lack Character and are focused on selfishly motivated objectives, but their cost is extremely high.  These crippling trade-offs can extend for years with a remarkably gifted employee.

We have all witnessed them.  The classic “ends justifies the means” people.  Those who disrupt, unravel, and generally blow up the work environment around them.  They take no prisoners and pursue personal agendas at the risk of accomplishing overall company goals.  They are people users, often burning out their team over and over again.  They are stress machines who develop turmoil and generate confrontation at every turn.  Others feign from the prospect of working with them.  Eventually teamwork is eliminated as the Cycle of Fear increases.  If we were talking about non-performers or average performers, the answer to this dilemma would be a simple termination, but sometimes these passion-killers are the highest performers of your organization.  They possess special, unique, and not easily replaceable skills and performance which create a make-or-break situation in your company’s success.

High Performers Without Character

What they lack is Character.  Regardless of the coaching, micro-managing, and manipulating you are willing to put into modifying their behavior, they will eventually “burn” you as a result of their lacking Character.  Success masquerades their flaws, but again and again they will make the wrong ethical choices presenting you with substantial liabilities internally and externally.  Ultimately you will be faced with losing them, losing your Team, or losing Yourself.  Decide early not to empower these individuals.  Be smart, be skillful, keep a great attitude and then present the Force of your Character at every challenge.

“Evil flourishes when good men do nothing.”
Edmund Burke

Your first priority is to make Character based hiring decisions by asking and listening to specific examples of “how” someone has dealt with the adversities in their career and in their life.    Next you must be courageous, make Character judgments about the people on your team, and diligently “weed out” those who are deficient.   As a Leader you are expected by your team and your company to exemplify a strong and moral Character.  But do not be fooled into believing this will create Character throughout your organization.  Setting the standard, cannot improve upon another’s Character.  Character is an individual accountability.  A Street Smart Leader knows the value of Character and requires it as a “condition of employment”.  He relinquishes the false ego gratification as a potential Builder of Men and focuses on the genuine results to be gained as a Builder of Character Based Teams.

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