Leading With Character

November 20, 2015

41IFWTvND0LWhat makes a good leader? Is it someone who encourages and inspires you? Someone who makes the big decisions? How do honesty and intuition come into play? Do you need a big title to lead?

I’ve been pondering these questions for some time now, and in doing so, came across a book that provided challenges and insights to develop and refine my own leadership qualities.

Titled “The 21 Indispensable Qualities of a Leader,” by John C. Maxwell, the book doesn’t preach leadership, but instead takes the reader through a series of examples and reflections you can apply and adopt. Dr. Maxwell has written several books on the topic and I like his approach. “The key to transforming yourself from someone who understands leadership to a person who successfully leads in the real world is character,” he says. “Your character qualities activate and empower leadership, or they stand in the way of success.”


Character is such a powerful word. It evokes a sense of pride and carries an air of hard work and determination. It is who you are.

Maxwell’s first chapter grounds the reader by exploring what character means and why it’s important, then builds on his thesis with subsequent chapters that focus on traits that make up character. It’s a must-read, in my opinion. To give you a little taste, I’ll leave you with a few takeaways from his book to ponder.

Talent is a gift, but character is a choice. We don’t get to pick our talents or IQ, but we do choose our character. We create it every time we make choices.

Challenge: Take a look at your character. Be honest: where do you have flaws? How can you improve upon them?

One of the best things you can do for people – which also attracts them to you – is to expect the best of them. Put a 10 on everyone’s head.

Challenge: Observe your interactions with people. Is the focus on you or on them? Tip the balance in favor of others.

Highly competent people don’t just show up. They come ready to play every day – no matter how they feel, what kind of circumstances they face or how difficult they expect the game to be.

Challenge: Find three ways to improve. Do a little research on what you need to improve on, and then spend the time making it happen.

Make yourself teachable. The day you stop growing is the day you forfeit your potential.

Challenge: Observe how you react to mistakes. Do you take responsibility or are you defensive? If it’s the latter, you need to work on your teachability.