I’m not an experienced construction worker or handyman. Though, I know if you build a building on the incorrect foundation, no matter how strong or good the structure looks, the whole building would be at risk of collapsing. American religious leader and author Gordon B. Hinckley said, “You can’t build a great building on a weak foundation. You must have a solid foundation if you’re going to have a strong superstructure.”
As a building needs a solid foundation, we must build our life on a strong foundation. The strong foundation of leadership is having and maintaining good character and integrity. Let’s define each of those foundational elements:
Character Defined- Author Warren Bennis says, “Successful leadership is not about being tough or soft, sensitive or assertive, but about a set of attributes. First and foremost is character.” People who have good character live out their beliefs, values, and convictions while making sure their attitude, behavior, and actions are in line with those areas. Character is about consistently making right choices no matter who is watching.
Integrity Defined- Zig Ziglar says, “It is true that integrity alone won’t make you a leader, but without integrity you will never be one.” I consider character as living out your personal beliefs, values and convictions while integrity is living out the established laws given to us by those in authority and by following organizational rules and policies. It’s the compass guiding a person to make the right and wise decisions.
The Challenge of Leading a Foundational Life
There is a challenge every leader (person) faces in having and maintaining good character and integrity. The challenge is remaining concentrated on our inward choices, concentrating on our character and integrity, over our outward life. A lot of the outward life of a leader is about personal performance, uniting and motivating team members, communicating vision, managing people, recruiting and retaining top talent, and making sure everyone produces results. So much of a leader’s time and energy is focused on outward actions.
This can be problematic because our outward life can lead us away from having and maintaining good character and integrity. It might start small by cutting corners on a project or adding numbers that are not real in the report all to maintain the outward life but unfortunately those small breaks in our character and integrity often lead to larger breaks. In time, focusing on our outward life more than the inward can lead us to doing things we never once thought possible. Eventually breaks of character and integrity are a leader’s downfall.
The solution to this challenge is easy to say but hard to follow through with. The solution is twofold. First, we should spend time daily reflecting, evaluating, and readjusting our life to make sure it lines up with good character and integrity. Secondly is having habits that support good character and integrity. These habits might include: having an inner circle of people who can hold us accountable for the choices we make, implementing spiritual practices, setting up safeguards that protect us from making bad or unwise choices, and increasing our knowledge base on how to maintain good character and integrity.
The foundation of leadership is having and maintaining good character and integrity. When we focus on the foundation, everything else in our life will be strong and indestructible. This is why we need to concentrate on our inward life more than the outward while implementing self-reflection and good habits.