By focusing on five influential leadership attributes — courage, caring, optimism, self-control and communication — leaders can begin to understand, practice and internalize the behaviors that build character.
This article adapted from Building Character: Strengthening the Heart of Good Leadership by Gene Klann shows that we can “consciously develop the behaviors related to all five leadership attributes, your behaviors will complement each other and multiply your influence."
Courage: Leadership character requires moral courage. This means standing up for one's convictions and values while risking criticism, censure, ridicule or persecution. It can also mean a willingness to risk loss of power, position, possessions or reputation. It means doing what you believe is right and being willing to take an unpopular position.
Caring: Humans are the most important resource in an organization-and the resource with the overall potential. If leaders treat their followers with caring behaviors such as appreciation, understanding, courtesy, attention, loyalty and encouragement, the leaders will be rewarded with cooperative and supportive behavior in return.
Optimism: People are attracted to leaders who are positive, upbeat and cheerful. When something important needs to be done, those being led are motivated and even inspired by a leader who behaves in a way that says, "We can do this!" Optimism also encourages perseverance and patience. When everything looks hopeless, optimism can cause the leader and those being led to keep pushing and driving and not give up.
Self-control: Leaders must choose what they should do and then accept the consequences of their choices. For leaders, self-control also means doing things that normally have a high positive influence on others and avoiding those that have a negative influence. When self-control is in place, a leader has the strength of will to do many of the things that others may find extremely difficult, which earns the leader respect and admiration and, ultimately, maximal influence.
Communication: The communicative leader can make a positive influence on others. The leader's communication casts vision. It establishes direction, shapes goals and objective, reinforces key values and clarifies tasks. It creates a focus and concentration that drives the effort of everyone on the team, business unit or within the organization. Communication makes the emotional connection that is so critical in effective leadership.