Leadership Thought #409 – Behavior Reflects Character

May 12, 2016

VIA Character Strengths

Leadership is all about character.  Anyone can manipulate words and stretch the facts to suit their short-term objective.  However, it is difficult long-term to fake behavior and eventually your actions will catch up with you.   Here are just a few examples of what I am talking about:

  • No one likes a bully.
  • Aggressive people tend to trigger a defensive response.
  • Everyone recognizes and dislikes rude and disrespectful behavior when they see it.
  • Who likes to be in a room for any extended period of time with a know-it-all who always has to be right?
  • If we catch people in a lie or think they are lying we tend not to trust them.
  • Cracks in someone’s voice or an unusual change of verbal pitch grab our attention.
  • Consistent low energy becomes a red flag in our perception of someone.
  • Hyper activity is off-putting.
  • We are all ultimately troubled by someone unwilling to make eye contact.
  • If we perceive someone wants something too badly they come across as desperate.
  • Warm and kind people tend to trigger a similar response in return.
  • Thoughtful people encourage us to be more thoughtful ourselves.
  • People who obviously think about what they say before they say it cause us to listen more carefully to what they have to say.
  • Charitable people encourage those around them to be more charitable.


Despite what George Burns says you can’t fake sincerity.   People see through it.  It is the biggest problem we have with our politicians.  We even recently had one presidential candidate who says he isn’t going to have “fact checkers” take him off message or influence his campaign.   Strong opinions shouldn’t trump fact based decision making.  If you want to get the measure of a man or woman, just look at what they say not what they do.   You can choose to speak out of both sides of your mouth, but you can’t run from your record or lack thereof.  It is also disingenuous to take credit for things you had little do with especially when you are unwilling to shoulder blame in a similar way.  I believe we all know in our gut that people who regularly contradict themselves or say anything to get what they want are potentially troublesome or even worse dangerous.

Style should never trump substance.  A leader should mean what he/she says and say what he/she means.   Most people know when they are being patronized or pandered to.  I am much more interested in what someone believes themselves than being told what I want to hear.  I’m also always open to hearing an alternative point of view as long as I feel the other person truly believes what they are saying.  And, on fundamental important issues, your opinions shouldn’t shift like the wind to suit your audience.  You should also never play to the lowest common denominator to score cheap points.  It shouldn’t be just about winning but winning for the right reasons.

An actor’s job is make what is unreal seem real.  A leader’s job is to bring reality to the surface.   He/she should lead by example, bring people together, foster productive dialogue, and chart a positive path forward whatever the circumstances.  If you choose to play the role, then at least do in an authentic manner. Never forget that behavior reflects character!

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