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Guest Post by Tamara Anderson
I was tall at a very young age. By the time I was in 6th grade I was 6’ tall. Everyone knew I’d be a great basketball player. I played ball like everyone thought I should. I went through the motions. And, I practiced and I played. But, no matter how hard I tried, I wasn’t good at it. I couldn’t get excited about it, and I didn’t like it.
I played basketball from 5th grade through my freshman year. At the start of my sophomore year, I was dreading basketball practice. I talked to my mom about it and told her I was thinking about quitting. She asked me why. I told her. She said I shouldn’t quit just to quit. But, she also said I was talented at many other things and if I didn’t want to play, I didn’t have to.
It was an amazing, freeing moment and gave me the confidence to say what I wanted and stand up for something I believed in.
It was a defining moment for me and that confidence to stand up for what I believe in, even when it’s not popular, is a characteristic that defines me today.
A lot has been written about character and leadership. One of my favorite books on the subject is The Seven Pillars of Servant Leadership by James Sipe and Don Frick. They describe character as those deeply ingrained qualities that embody who we really are. Through their research, they show that leaders who are seen as persons of character are more likely to generate loyalty, creativity, and productivity among followers.
But what are the practical steps we can take to become a person (and a LEADER) of character?
Be True To Yourself
I was working with a group of participants in a leadership program and we were discussing leadership and being a person of character. I asked them what they thought it meant to be a person of character. One of the responses has stuck with me. He said that being a person of character is being true to who you are, no matter the circumstances. He went on to say that a leader should respond consistently and not change their approach based on the person or situation involved.
For him, it was a matter of trust. He can’t trust someone who isn’t true to who they are.
The lesson, don’t do what’s convenient. Do what’s authentic.
Make It A Daily Practice
For example, if you value being confident, make it a priority to act with confidence. Every day we are faced with opportunities to be confident in our decision making, to speak up, to stand up for what we believe in, and take risks.
Choose one opportunity daily and commit to it.
In the European Journal of Social Psychology, Phillippa Lally and her research team shared the results of their research into how long it takes to form a habit. We’ve heard for years it takes 21 days to make a habit. According to Lally and her research team, it takes more than 2 months on average to build a new behavior into your life.
At the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter how long it takes. It matters that you’re intentional about doing what you need to do to make it part of who you are.
Pay It Forward
In order to continue to see others focus on developing their character and being true to themselves, we have a responsibility as leaders to pay it forward. High potential leaders who have been mentored to advance in their careers are more likely to pay it forward by developing the next generation of leaders. They recognize that someone once took a chance on them and now it’s their turn.
Paying it forward is an essential part of being a leader of character. It benefits everyone and leads to more of the same.
It all starts with you and who you decide to be every day in your words and actions. Be true to who you are. Be consistent in your actions. And be intentional about what you do every day and you’ll build a leadership legacy you can be proud of.
Tamara Anderson is a Co-Owner and Team Performance Strategist at Dale Carnegie of ND who aligns business strategies and people practices to drive results. She has a passion for performance, works to exceed the WOW factor, powers up organizational culture, loves her clients, and expects business results. In a nutshell, she is the fork in the road where culture and strategy meet.
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