Leadership is a potent combination of strategy and character. But if you must be without one, be without the strategy. – Norman Schwarzkopf
I tweeted this quote last week, feeling the depth of it as I watched it get retweeted over and over. Each time I saw it go further into the world I thought more about it. How do we measure character?
Character is defined as the moral qualities that are distinctive. I add in my belief that character (and morals) are defined by what happens when no one is watching, when we think “no one will ever know.” For me personally this shows up in one way as I train to play volleyball. My teammates have no idea what I’m doing to prepare, how I’m investing my energy so that my team has the best chance for success. They trust me. They know my character. They know my moral structure is to behave in a way that puts the team goals in front of mine, and as a leader I’ll prepare for the competition.
How do we build the moral courage required to have the character of a great leader? One decision at a time. Think about a bicep curl, and the time it takes to strengthen it. The time it takes to lose the strength in it. Exercise your courage in decision making, whether alone or in a group, so that it is in line with your character. Over and over. There is no end to strengthening this muscle.
Leaders have the strong muscles of moral courage, of character, of decision making in the quiet solitude which is the same that would be made in the presence of others. As we enter into the time of year where budgets are being done, compensation is being evaluated, and strategic plans are being created, I encourage you to grow stronger in your moral convictions, letting your character shine.