HomeOpinion & AnalysisColumnistsIn the leadership arena, character counts

In the leadership arena, character counts

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In the leadership playing field, you can be a character, or you can possess unparalleled character. There are leaders who are characters in the melodramatic sense of the word, but lacking the key ingredient that separate great leaders from mere pretenders, which is integrity. Having sound character is more than intellect, good judgment, self-awareness, empathy or emotional health. Character in leadership is engaging in actions that back up your words and words that are congruent with the actions. The world is looking for leaders of integrity and honesty, leaders that can be trusted. Scanning though the world today, leaders of character are actually a rare commodity.

Guest Column Noah Mangwarara

No matter how charismatic you are, failing to constantly keep your word is a serious disadvantage. Being untrue to your values, people won’t follow you for long.

They may follow you to a point, but when the going gets tough, as it always turns that way in life, they will hang back and look around for another leader. Where many people are seeking direction and require hope to get to palatable pastures, they also choose a leader who is trustworthy to navigate them through. In the process, they will be checking and investigating to determine whether the leader is sticking to their word or otherwise.

One leader of sound character from a biblical standpoint was Samuel, who at the end of four decades of reigning over Israel had the following to say; “behold, here I am. Witness against me before Jehovah and before His anointed. Whose ox have I taken? Or whose ass have I taken? Or whom have I defrauded? Whom have I oppressed? Or from whose hand have I received a bribe, to blind my eyes with it? And I will restore it to you. And they said you have not defrauded us nor oppressed us; neither have you taken from any man’s hand” (1Sa 12:1 – 4).

How many of our political leaders would willingly open themselves up to such scrutiny? We would be very fortunate to have more than five percent owning up.

Probably its asking too much of the political leaders, how many of our prophets, pastors and evangelists would stand to such thorough examination? Again it would be shocking if you get more than 20% willingly coming forth especially given the many scandals being reported involving the men of the cloth. Some now jokingly call them “Money of God” or “Man of Gold”. All this is arising from the fact that there is very little of sound character from these men and women who are supposed to be practicing and upholding high moral standards.

Samuel didn’t passively respond to the investigation of his possessions. Instead, he initiated it himself. He invited examination of his truthfulness and uprightness, down to the very last ox and donkey, promising to return anything that might have been immorally appropriated, no matter how immaterial. He didn’t end there, he promised to put right the least evidence on impropriety or dishonest gain. Fast track to the twenty first century and try to imagine our leaders in various spheres of our economy coming forth and requesting the public to scrutinise their actions during their time in office. Probably this would be the starting point in bringing sanity to the madness prevailing around us.

The issue is not about bringing leaders under public scrutiny, but it demands each person in their respective positions to realise that they hold those positions in trust noting that someone is watching.

In a bygone ear folk tale, a farmer tells his hired man to take a chicken and kill it ‘‘where no one can see.’’ The hired man returns in a few hours with a live chicken. ‘‘Why didn’t you kill it?’’ asks the farmer. ‘‘Everywhere I go, the chicken sees,’’ answers the hired man. Exactly the point; behind this humorous fairy-tale is a hidden message, someone is always watching, even if it is only the victim, the perpetrator, or the perpetrator’s conscience. Always act as if someone else with more power than you is watching. And if you are a leader with a conscience, you are literally watching yourself; you don’t need a chicken or anyone higher than you in the hierarchy.

It’s very true that honesty and integrity don’t appear to pay off in the short run while dishonesty and lack of integrity do. Paul Galvin, former chief executive officer of Motorola, to be guided in his leadership went by this credo: “Tell them the truth, first because it’s the right thing to do and second because they’ll find out anyway.” Whether in the short run or in the long run, dishonesty has a way of being exposed. And often, exposure happens just at the time when you can least afford it.

If you are to leave your organisation today, would your followers grieve openly about losing you or probably they will be celebrating and breathing a sign of relief at parting with a liability to the establishment? If they would grieve, is it in relation to losing a leader of integrity or probably it’s because they were benefiting from the shoddy deals that you were engaged upon. To be a successful leader, you must have sound character. Your word ought to be everything that you have got.

In hiring people, the following order is important — integrity, intelligence and energy. The moment you hire someone without character, you are assured of being choked by the other two. Character is the true measure of leadership and the measure of a company’s character is judged on the actions of its leaders not by the statements of intent stuck up the wall. You can expect honest followers if you model dishonesty. And remember, the higher you go, the more visible your character or lack of it becomes.

Noah Mangwarara is a Motivational Speaker. Feedback on nmangwarara@gmail.com

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