Think about how you might handle the following three scenarios:
Scenario #1: Homer, who is a real problem employee, tells you he is considering leaving the company. The next day you receive a phone call from an organization where Homer has interviewed and given your name as a reference. The caller asks what kind of performer Homer is. You really want to get rid of this guy. What will you say on the phone?
Scenario #2: You tell your employee, Mary, to use a specific methodology for the project on which she is working. As a result of this method, the project fails and your company loses a large sum of money. When your boss asks why Mary failed so miserably, what will you say?
Scenario #3: Your boss emphatically tells you to take a certain controversial action on a project. You do as she has instructed, and you think nothing more about it. Later you find out the company president was livid about what you did and confronted your boss. Your boss told the president that you had operated on your own initiative. What will you do?
Every day leaders face choices, alternatives and options. Leadership character is all about behaving appropriately, through words and deeds, and then accepting the consequences. Gene Klann, author of Building Character: Strengthening the Heart of Good Leadership, says that the way leaders make decisions and how they respond to the consequences tells us a lot about their character. Leaders of character must take full responsibility and accountability for their choices. That includes taking the credit for a decision and its results, whether it yields accolades or criticism.
As a leader, ask yourself these character-based questions to help clarify and sort out difficult decisions:
- Are emotional inhibitors causing me to read the situation inaccurately?
- Are organizational values conflicting with my own as I weigh this decision? If so, how can I resolve that?
- Is what I am about to say or do straightforward? Am I misrepresenting anything?
- If my true motive in making this decision came out, could it cost me major embarrassment or even my job?
- What would the leader I respect most do in this situation?
- And arguably the most important question to consider: What does the voice of conscience tell me I should do?
- What do you want your legacy to be? A good exercise is to write down how you want to be remembered, and establish a plan that will get you there. Maintaining good leadership character will certainly help with that.