Leadership is a way of life. We don’t need to be in a high level position or hold some fancy title to be a leader. All we need to do is live a life that exudes leadership qualities. There are many qualities that define a great leader, and each quality points back to one thing – our character. Great leadership qualities include learning to listen before we speak, being humble, serving others without looking to be served ourselves, admitting our faults and failures, putting others before ourselves, leading with strength and courage when others flee with fear, and many others. All of these qualities are a direct representation of our character. So I have a question for you – How’s your character doing?
I will be the first to admit that I do not show leadership qualities 100% of the time. There are a couple of reasons for this: 1. I am a constant work in progress and will always make mistakes, but I will never quit trying to improve and be better, 2. I struggle with some leadership qualities, and I am working on becoming better. Even though I might make mistakes and struggle in showing certain leadership qualities, I will never stop trying to become better.
The other day I had a conversation with my nine year old daughter about failure. She came to me and said, “Dad, I failed at writing today in school.” I asked her what she meant, and she said, “I couldn’t figure out the three things a sentence needs.” I asked her if she stopped trying to understand, and she said, “No.” I told her that she didn’t fail; she only made mistakes, which is normal when we are learning. She then looked at me with a puzzled look, and I explained, “You only fail when you stop trying. If you make a mistake and try to correct that mistake, then you didn’t fail. All you did was make a mistake.”
You’re probably sitting there going, “That’s a nice story and all, but what does this have to do with my character?” No one is perfect, and we all make mistakes. Humanity seems to see mistakes as failures and many times chooses to stop trying to improve themselves. When we struggle with character qualities, we have two options – stop trying to become better and fail at building a strong character, or continue to work on those qualities even after we make mistakes. Our character is what will last when we are gone. Our title and position in life does not matter. What matters is who we are on a day to day basis, and it’s our character that determines the kind of person we are.
I may be altruistic in saying this, but I don’t believe people have an innate desire to be disrespectful, arrogant, prideful “A” holes. I believe people want to do good and be good. I believe people have a desire, deep down, to be better human beings. The problem is that our society glorifies behavior that promotes bad character traits. When all we see is the glorification of negative, poor character traits, then we begin to consider those traits as normal. In reality, these “normal” traits are anything but good.
There is an old adage, “Garbage in, garbage out.” It took me until my early 20’s to understand what this adage really meant. The more negativity, false doctrine, and lies we allow to permeate our existence, the more we become the very things we know are wrong. If we allow for bad character traits to seep into our being, then we slowly become, and normalize, what we know is poor character qualities. To mitigate this problem, we must be in a constant state of reflection and learning. We must admit our faults and mistakes and do what is needed to become better human beings. Our poor choices and character qualities are nobody’s fault but our own.
So, how’s your character doing? I challenge you to take a deep, hard look at yourself and determine what character qualities you need to change and work on. And don’t forget, you only fail when you stop trying.
As always, stay humble and serve well!