The foundation of any building is the most critical element. The foundation is what everything rests upon.
Your home likely has a foundation consisting of a continuous concrete footing, foundation walls of poured concrete and a concrete floor slab. Other components from soil compaction to waterproofing are crucial.
If any of these things are faulty, no matter how beautiful your home is above the foundation, you can experience major problems.
Leadership development is similar because the foundation is essential to the process and the outcomes. What is underneath the surface makes all the difference.
We talk a lot about things like pipeline, curriculum, metrics and systems. These are all good and important components.
These components make up the structure and style of your leadership development, but they don’t embody the foundation or the heart of your leadership development. They are above the surface.
The heart of your leadership development charts the course over the long haul and embodies elements like your values, motivation and spiritual integrity.
If your developmental foundation is solid, the flaws above the surface are not damaging and are relatively easy to improve.
If your foundation is faulty, no amount of talent and hard work in the day to day will deliver the results you want over the long haul.
The great news is that these four components are not determined by talent, resources or skill. They are all about who you are as a person.
Therefore, when developing others, you reproduce who you are.
It’s not as simple and direct as an apple tree produces an apple.
We know there are many other influences in play with each person you develop, from their personal decisions to human genetics.
However, as far as their leadership behavior goes, and in time, even their leadership instincts, they are a reflection of you as their leadership coach and/or mentor.
Over time character drives values and principles deep in those you develop. Your integrity carries over into every aspect of how you lead.
It’s an interesting principle because as we often say about character, it’s who you are when no one is looking. That’s true. However, it’s equally true that you can’t hide your true character over an extended period. And if you are a leader, people are watching you.
Whatever philosophical position you take, your character is at the core of your leadership.
Key question: Can the people you lead fully trust your character?
Leadership is more caught than taught.
Therefore, what you practice is more important that what you preach.
“Example is not the main thing in influencing others…it is the only thing.” – Albert Schweitzer
It’s the little things that involve attributes such as kindness, generosity and humility that shape what you do and how you do it.
What you put into practice (model) is more visible than your character, but the two are connected. As an example, you can model generosity as a show, or as a genuine part of your character. That all depends on who you really are.
For example, my friend and leadership mentor John Maxwell has always treated me with kindness, generosity and respect. It didn’t matter if anyone was looking or not. You can’t fake that for 37 years. John’s character is true.
Please don’t misunderstand, it is good to model certain behaviors intentionally, but they must always be genuine. Not perfect, but genuine.
Key question: If people modeled your behavior, would you like what you see?