I’ve heard people describe “character” as “who you are when no one else is looking” — and I think that’s very fitting. Character defines your actions, guides your interactions with others and gives legs to your moral compass. We can all say we believe in the importance of having a strong moral and ethical code and want to be trustworthy — but the strength of your character determines whether or not you live out what you believe. It is what propels and defines everything you do. Without good character, the effectiveness of your leadership and your relationship with your team will suffer, along with your organization.
Having good character is something that we all strive for. We want to be seen as trustworthy, reliable and good-natured, but how do we get there? How do we become the solid, accountable leaders we want to be and give our teams a strong example to follow?
1. Be accountable.
One of the best ways to build character is to hold yourself accountable. Ask someone you trust to be your accountability partner. Meet with them regularly and ask how you can continue growing as a leader, what changes you need to make and if you’re really living out your standards.
Being accountable also means staying open to feedback from those closest to you. Your team and your coworkers will have special insights into your character, and may be able to give you an accurate picture of how you’re being perceived and how well you’re doing at displaying good character. Remember to stay open to their advice and feedback, and strive to constantly improve.
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2. Hold to your standards.
This may be your company’s core values, your leadership ethics code or even your own moral compass. Whatever standards you are expected to uphold as a leader, it’s crucial that you do so consistently and without wavering. I’m not talking about never changing your mind or modifying your own expectations as things change — I mean committing to never letting your ethics or morals slip, even if it’s convenient or will lead to financial gain.
Just as being a good example will strengthen your team, failing to uphold your standards will show your team you don’t mean what you say and that it’s acceptable to disregard ethics in favor of gain. Be cautious to always stay true to your morals and to your company’s ethical code, even if it results in short-term loss or seems difficult at the time. Your decision will have long-term effects on your team, your leadership and your organization, for better or for worse.
3. Be honest.
Being honest doesn’t mean sharing everything with everyone all the time. However, it does mean that when you do share, whether it be feedback, the state of affairs or the status of a project, you need to be truthful and open. Lying about where you and your organization stand or trying to puff up your financials may seem advantageous in the short-term — but dishonesty will only lead to greater losses in the long run, whether it be in tangible assets, like financials or employees, or in intangible assets, like trust or even your reputation.
By staying truthful, however, you allow room for real growth as you enable your team to help you work through the problems at hand. By being open, you also show your team that they don’t need to be afraid of failure or sharing their mistakes, and that you will be there to support and encourage them no matter what.
Want to encourage honesty in your workplace? Read more here.
4. Demonstrate consistency.
Just as you need to uphold your moral standards to maintain good character, you also need to stay true to your word. Whether it’s in the small things, like completing projects you said you would, or in the big things, like supporting a team member in need like you said you would, it’s crucial that you remain consistent and trustworthy. Showing your team that you mean what you say will give them an example to follow and show that you are a steady, dependable leader.
Building character is not a one-time action — it requires constant cultivation. Ask yourself each day how you can be more accountable and trustworthy, then at the end of the day, ask yourself what you did to build your character and what you could do differently in the future. Being trustworthy requires daily practice and effort, but by being consistent, you show your team you are reliable, provide a positive example for others to follow and set your organization up for success.