Posts Tagged character
My time in the military taught me a lot about myself. Some of it was not that pretty. To be honest I am surprised and ashamed at how I reacted in some of my early situations. I was not on the battlefield but I was faced with trials and tasks that were hard, hard in ways I did not expect, and I was afraid. My fear led me to be weak or run away from the difficulties ahead but in the military you don’t run far. Because of my fear, and my reaction to my fear, my leaders were very tough on me – and they had every right to be. I didn’t realize until later on how much I needed them to be tough to make me stronger.
There are personality traits that can be beneficial to good leaders like charisma and charm but that will never be enough. True character is what defines great leaders – those that are trustworthy, calm, fair and understanding. There is a long-standing debate about whether leadership can be taught or is inherent. I believe these character traits must have an internal foundation, where someone has the propensity to have these qualities that can then be built and enhanced along the way.
While I may have had fear and ran from my hardships early on in my military career, my leaders saw those character traits in me because they already existed in me. Before I joined the Navy, I was already dependable, trustworthy, and fair. Through my leaders’ lessons in my life, I can say that I “grew up.” They believed in me and through them I learned how to be the person I am today. My leaders helped me understand that leadership is not about the authority that comes along with being in charge; it is about accepting the responsibility of the team and the outcome.
God Bless our military – the true leaders of the world.
Everyone is painfully aware of the adage “perception is reality”. Unfortunately, that statement is even truer today with society’s thirst for gossip and misdeeds. Even a suggestion of impropriety leads people to assume the worst–sometimes falsifying the story to fill in unknown gaps. The real problem is people live for this type of juicy information. This is why shows like Jersey Shore, Real Housewives and other reality tv programs have such a huge following. In those instances, the cameras are essentially documenting the train wreck of ‘celebrity’ lives (I am using the term celebrity here very loosely). Maybe we, as a society, are in awe of the asinine behavior of people, or we are jealous of the lifestyle and luxuries afforded to the stars. Whatever the reason, people love gossip and rumor, and then perpetuate the story by telling it to others.
One glaring issue is that the gossip and rumor become hard fact very quickly. Once a bad story is spread around, it is incredibly tough to counter it with truth. For some reason, no one wants to hear the honest version. It could be that the real story is not as interesting or that the mystery and intrigue is just too much to let go. This is dangerous territory when it comes to teamwork and leadership. If the rumor or gossip concerns members of the same team or one member of the team, it can splinter and fracture the team in a heartbeat if not quelled quickly.
What if the story is true? Consider the recent news regarding an incredibly high-ranking military official; the juicy gossip is actually truth. None of the parties concerned are denying the fact that inappropriate behavior went on. Ironically, the underlying concern has nothing to do with infidelity but indiscretion of state secrets. The high -ranking official swore before Congress nothing classified was shared with his paramour, but that may not be enough. He is known to be a liar in one facet of his life; what makes his word worth anything now? The fact there was impropriety implies untrustworthiness. The perception regarding his behavior is that he may have shared more than a bed with his lover. This is a sad statement since the high-ranking official is probably one of the most honorable soldiers around.
That is the danger for leaders – falling off the pedestal. We are taught to set the example and do the right thing. That becomes the standard and the expectation of our behavior from our teams. In fact, it should be since that is a big part of leadership. However, we are still human, and we will all make mistakes. We have to be cognizant of our choices and how our eventual mistakes will be construed. By focusing on honesty, strength of character, open communication and being responsible, leaders may avoid the trap of perception. If we have consistent, truthful interactions with our teams, when we do stumble in our leadership skills, our team is more apt to believe the good story and defend us against the bad.
CEO, The Professional Development Team
I was watching a news clip recently of Bill Cosby, during which there was a comment about his service in the Navy. Immediately I looked up the information to find out that he had been a hospital corpsmen. While my regard for Bill Cosby has always been high, this elevated my respect for him because he is a military veteran. I stopped and thought about my reaction to learning about his service time – why did his service make a difference? The bottom line I came up with is simply because it does. I went a step further to decide if my reaction was in kinship with him as a fellow Navy veteran or because of his service alone. It was because of his service alone, I decided. Then I thought about some other professions that inspire this same sort of immediate respect: doctor, police officer, clergyman.
Analyzing the general characteristics of a US military member, a list of words comes to mind: disciplined, honor, hardworking, committed, and trustworthy, to name a few. These same words are usually applied to inspiring people and leaders as well. Upon learning that someone is a veteran, there is an automatic correlation of these character traits to the person. Along with the qualities listed comes an expectation of performance. People who are assigned these types of characteristics must continue this type of lifestyle at all times. This may be unfair, but it is the truth. When people in respected positions act in a way that is contrary to our expectation, it is hard to overlook or forgive. In fact, I think it is harder to excuse poor behavior or lapse of judgment for these persons than it is for say a professor.
Why is that? Why should we expect more? People in certain professions are specifically trained for leadership roles. They are taught to handle crisis situations, people management, and technical competence. That is part of why society automatically associates desirable traits with the profession. It is then up to the individual person to live up to society’s expectations and perform at or above the level required.
– Lori Buresh
CEO, The Professional Development Team