All quality leadership books have character as a critical factor in answering the popular question of how do I become a great leader? For me, it is thee most important area to develop.
But it’s not a quick to-do list item we can quickly tick off as completed. It takes a lifetime of intentionality and consciously choosing to walk in to become a person with quality character.
So what is character?
According to the Cambridge Dictionary its:
“the particular combination of qualities in a person or place that makes them different from others.”
It’s not one thing, but the sum of many things which, when added together, makes/leaves an overall impression. Sometimes it’s hard to pin-point why you come out with a word or phrase to describe a person or building. But it’s what comes to mind when you think of that person or place. Something with a depth of substance or robust strength you would say has a strong character. But when we’re asked to describe why you say that – then a long list of qualities you notice bring better definition as to what made you say that particular word/ phrase. It also takes thought to go deeper, beneath the surface to find each of those building blocks to sum up as being of strong character.
How did you get the character you have today?
Character isn’t something you’re born with that can’t be changed. But from thousands of situations and lesson’s you’ve witnessed, been taught and your response to each of them from the day you were born that create the character you have today.
Key influencers, authority figures modelling, and words spoken to and over you have been heavier weight. While intense and emotional experiences have also left deeper impressions helping to form you into who you are today.
Some of us have had good role models with loving and wise words were spoken to us. Others of us have had it hard with crucial figures in our lives speaking lies and modelling bad or even cruel ways to live life. But others don’t cause you to be the person and character you are today – that’s all the choices and responses to them which has formed your character.
Where do I start?
The good news – today is a new day – a fresh opportunity to change how your future you are going to be.
Character is developed when we consciously choose: to make good choices; speak words of life over ourselves and others; grow in our understanding of each of the different aspects which form our character. While being self-aware of why we do what we do and which parts need to be changed as we apply what we learn.
John Maxwell is famous for his magic 21 number of characteristics and qualities on different aspects of leadership that he’s prioritised to help you develop into a great leader. These are recommended areas to add to your list of what to work on in your leadership development.Â
But the best one to start with is the Bible – the foundational points all the others can build on.
To have God as our ultimate role model to study His nature and character so we can be more like Him. It will take a lifetime, but we will slowly be transformed into His likeness – thus have godly character.
The key verses for me to find these character qualities to work on first are:
“Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your should and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.” [Matthew 22:37-39 NIV]
“To trust in the Lord your God with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.” [Proverbs 3:5+6 NIV]
“I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every opportunity to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” [Ephesians 4:1-3 NIV]
“And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” [1 Corinthians 13:12-13 NIV]
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” [Galatians 5:22+23 NIV]
As I’ve shared frequently in past blogs, developing your personal relationship with God is a must and perfect way to start you on this journey. To invite Father God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit to help you heal and change your human, earthly perspective into a kingdom, life-giving one is the first step. Then ask God to help you work on each of the characteristics above, so you are transformed from the inside out. From your head to heart and spirit understanding of what it means to be loving so you consciously and naturally become more loving…
How is character actually built/ changed?
A response you do without thinking is a habit you’ve built up from a pattern of thoughts, speech and previous reactions to others and from others over time.
So you have to change your thoughts to change your values and morals to actively decide on new patterns and choices to consciously put them into action.
Psychology researchers from University College London discovered it takes 66 days for a new habit worked on daily to become automatic.
Repetition of application is vital. You can read a great verse or quote and think “yes that’s great.” But it’s just the first step. The next is to pray to ask God for help to show you:
How can I be more like that?
What in my life doesn’t reflect this truth?
What specifically do I need to change, to stop doing and start doing so this truth is active in my life.
Whether you then journal your thoughts in response or brainstorm a list of what that look like in reality is all great. They will give you examples and ideas to turn into actions.
The essential step after this is to then actually put them into practice, consciously every day. To ask others to help you keep accountable so when they see you doing or saying like your own habit – to point it out to you so you can develop new habits and thus bring change.
What can that look like?
I’ve seen several friends and friends of friends try for lent a fast of negativity for 40 days. At the start it was hard, but it was ‘fun’ to catch one another out and then turn that negative phrase into a positive one instead. But over time, it became more natural, and they felt lighter, more positive. It was easier to regularly speak positively about themselves, others and situations.
People often ask me if I am patient. My first response is to say – “well, I’m more patient than I would have been if I wasn’t called Patience.” But it’s true. I am quick to take the initiative, see things that need to be improved, want to get started on a fun new project or when a decision has been made to start and act on it. Living in India, I learned how to be very patient waiting in long queues in hot, humid conditions. But waiting for others to catch up on my thought process – that kind of patience is very much a work in progress. Waiting for others is hard, I’m not in control of them and regularly have to put myself in their shoes to see how I can help them progress, but sometimes these things can’t be rushed. So my daily reminder of my name is also a verb that helps me be just a little bit more patient than I used to be. But it doesn’t mean I’m passive in the waiting process. To choose to give grace, be patient and pray for them and myself that we will give them the time and space they need to grow well (not just quickly).
It would be great to hear what aspects of your character you struggle with and how you’ve overcome them – so we can all learn from one another. Please add your comments below or start a new topic for discussion in the Forum area.