Some mistake leader charisma with being a great leader. Don’t get me wrong, charisma is great trait and I, personally, like my leaders with a heaping spoonful of charismatic ego and a tad of moxy sprinkled on top. But that’s not what makes a great leader. What makes a leader great is character.
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines character as “moral excellence and firmness.” I define it as having a code and living by it. Your company may have a code of conduct and that is a great tool for setting the expectation for how to behave and conduct business. It doesn’t, however, replace a personal code. A personal code goes deeper and gives us, as leaders, a guideline on how to lead with character.
Taking the time to write out a personal code not only gives us a reference point from which to lead, it also helps us internalize it. When we internalize it, they’re not just words, the code becomes the character baseline that is our brand of leadership. Leading from that core builds trust and lets our team know what to expect.
My personal code of conduct as a leader:
- I will treat others with respect and dignity.
- I will not expect from others what I’m not willing to do myself.
- I will stand up for what’s right in the face of adversity.
- I will stand by my team no matter what.
- I will not say anything about you that I won’t say to you.
- I will let you know what I know when I know (and also let you know when I don’t know).
- I will tell you the truth even if it’s not popular or pretty (but I might package it well).
- I will take what you tell me at face value until I am given a reason not to.
- I will care as much about your development as I do my own.
- I will remain loyal to you and expect the same in return.
- I will not waiver in my service.
Don’t get me wrong. I like a leader with charisma. If you have charisma (which, by the way, is derived from a Greek word meaning “Divinely inspired gift”) you’ve got a tool not everyone has but that’s not greatness. Leading with character makes you great (and great to work with). Take the time to write out your code and then lead by it.