An executive’s character is reflected by the people who look to him or her for leadership. What they look for is whether or not the executive is “coachable,” by which I mean open to feedback from others. Is the executive willing to constantly re-examine his or her own character and make adjustments when necessary?
The company’s employees will determine if the executive is obtuse and unwilling to change. They will be patient at first, but unless they appreciate the executive’s character, the work environment will not be as productive as it could be.
As a businessperson, the executive certainly should know about Adam Smith’s “invisible hand” and the free market to be successful. The executive needs to take a look at the other invisible hand: his or her personal character.
One way to frame this evaluation is through the seven fundamentals of leader development:
Collaborative Convincement: The fundamental of collaborative convincement represents the balance of management skills with leadership skills.
Emotional Strength: Emotional strength speaks to the balance of a healthy ego with the proper use of empathy.
Integrative Ethics: Integrative ethics addresses the balance between properly intended rules and good results.
Provident Power: The fundamental of provident power unpacks the necessary balance of professional power with personal power.
Interactive Influence: Interactive influence describes the balance of disclosure to others with feedback for the self.
Team Forbearance: Team forbearance represents the interaction of positive team behaviors for task completion and group relations.
Systems Discernment: Systems discernment addresses the perception of work meaningfulness and the actual work systems that surround employees.
Executives who truly desire to become leaders must first know that, while they may be called leaders, it is not about them. Leadership doesn’t happen by the efforts of one person. If executives act as if they are the “one best person” to lead, they have missed the point.
Second, the executive is solely responsible for one thing: to be a model for a high standard of personal character in leadership. Part of this is constantly monitoring, gauging and enhancing his or her own skills to lead others—being coachable.
Leadership is not about having a corner office or a lofty title. Executives have proven their operational competence prior to arriving to the executive suite. Once there, they have to demonstrate their character.
(Editor’s Note: Peter Dean is author of The Coachable Leader, which is designed as a feedback resource for executives based on these seven fundamentals of leadership development.)