Character Determines the Height of Your Personal Growth
John Maxwell is an internationally renowned leadership expert, coach and author. Maxwell will be a special guest speaker at the upcoming ACN International Training Event in Charlotte, NC. Below is a guest post written for ACN by John Maxwell.
Professors James Kouzes and Barry Posner have spent more than twenty-five years surveying leaders in virtually every type of organization in which they ask, “What values, personal traits, or characteristics do you look for and admire in a leader?” During those years, they have administered a survey questionnaire called “Characteristics of Admired Leaders” to more than seventy-five thousand people on six continents: Africa, North American, South America, Asia, Europe, and Australia. “The results,” they report, “have been striking in their regularity over the years, and they do not significantly vary by demographical, organizational, or cultural differences.” And what quality is most admired in leaders? The answer is honesty.
As Kouzes and Posner explain, honesty, which is the core of good character, is the quality that most enhances or damages personal reputations. They write,
In almost every survey conducted, honesty has been selected more often than any other leadership characteristic; overall, it emerges as the single most important factor in the leader-constituent relationships. The percentages vary, but the final ranking does not. From the first time we conducted our studies honesty has been at the top of the list.
It comes as little surprise that people want to follow leaders of good character. No one likes to work with unreliable people. But before you or I work with any other person or follow any other leader, who do we have to rely on every day? Ourselves! That’s why character is so important. If you cannot trust yourself, you won’t ever be able to grow. Good character, with honesty and integrity at its core, is essential to success in any area of life. Without it, a person is building on shifting sand.
Bill Thrall asserts that people often focus on their professional capacity without developing character, and it almost always costs them in the end. It costs them their personal relationships and often their career. He likens it to climbing a long extension ladder that lacks the proper support. The higher a person climbs, the more wobbly and unstable it can become, until the person climbing it finally falls.
Retired general Norman Schwarzkopf asserted, “Ninety-nine percent of leadership failures are failures of character.” So are ninety-nine percent of all other failures. Most people focus too much on competence and too little on character. How often does a person miss a deadline because he didn’t follow through when he should have? How many times do people get lower grades on tests than they could have because they didn’t study as much as they should have? How frequently do people fail to grow not because they didn’t have time to read helpful books but because they chose to spend their time and money on something else that was less worthwhile? All of those shortcomings are the result of character, not capacity. Character growth determines the height of your personal growth.