Dec 2, 2012

- Character Sets the Foundation for Leadership

Leadership can never be divorced from the leader. And as a leader, you cannot impart what you do not possess. This is why “the main ingredient of good leadership is character”.

“The main ingredient of good leadership is good character. This is because leadership involves conduct and conduct is determined by values.” – Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf

Whilst many place value in titles and positions, it’s behavior that wins people’s trust and respect. A foundational leadership principle is that leaders need to model the behaviors and attitudes which they expect from others. The example set by leaders are most powerful when grounded in values and when leaders live their values in their own authentic manner. When is comes to values they are most effectively demonstrated by your behavior, words count, but not nearly as much as your deeds.

Great leaders lead from the front. They take the initiative to go first. People follow a person, before they buy into a strategy and a plan. People need more than grand idea. They need to see the idea lived in the flesh.
  • Do you set the example by aligning your values with your actions?
  • Do you lead from the front?

(G. Ambler)

- There is no Avoiding War; it can ONLY be postponed to the advantage of others.

There is no avoiding war; it can only be postponed to the advantage of others (Niccolò Machiavelli)

What does that mean?
At the time of the quote, there was a state of tension and often open warfare between any number the Italian City States, and the Princes who ran them. In observation of this phenomenon, the conclusion was reached that delay lead not to an advantage, but to disadvantage to the delayer.

So to me, this is saying you shouldn’t procrastinate. You need to strike while the iron is hot. It says when something cannot be avoided (war in this case), you shouldn’t waste time wishing it were otherwise or engaging in diplomatic negotiations. Instead, the quote urges us to saddle up and ride.

The quote says that there are things which cannot be avoided (war as his example). When you are in that situation, it is urgent that something be done and done quickly. Delays will only hurt you and your position, or help your opponent and theirs.

Why is avoiding procrastination important?
Besides stealing your momentum, procrastination saps the will. In the case of the quote, delay aids the enemy more than it aids you. In my experience, waiting for things to get better on their own rarely works. Things tend to go from bad to worse, if left alone.

By postponing, you only give the things you are avoiding time to gather their forces and come after you on their own terms. While the quote was for the rulers of the Principalities of Renaissance Italy, it is still applicable today, if you swap out the term war for conflict or for troubles. There are always people who live to cause conflict or to give others trouble. If you’ve never met one of these people, consider yourself lucky.

Where can I apply this in my life?
I am going to take a bold stand and presume that none of my readers is the head of a state, or even a city state (however, if you are a head of state, please accept my most humble and sincere apologies). So, how will the rest of us use this quote in our daily lives?

When we try to resolve conflict or avoid trouble, sometimes we succeed, and other times we do not. This quote is for those times when your best efforts have not yielded the results you had hoped for. When all hope for a peaceful resolution have faded, it’s time to prepare for the inevitable.

The quote urges us to prepare, but not to procrastinate. Starting something before you are ready might give the other side the break they need to turn things in their favor. Waiting beyond what is prudent does the same, by allowing them to either gather their forces, prepare better defenses, or attempt to weaken your position.

The trick is going to be translating the military sounding terms in the prior paragraph into something that makes sense in your world. If you have kids, there will be conflict and trouble. There will be points in time when you realize that it cannot be avoided. Moving swiftly is the best course of action, according to the quote. It also matches my experience.

At work, there will be times when no compromise can be reached, and it’s going to be a ‘fight’ to determine the course of a project or product. You and yours against them and theirs. If you can pull your plan together and get it to a deciding authority before they get that far, their plan will look sloppy and weak. If you wait, they might be able to put enough ‘pretty’ on their proposal to win, despite the inferior nature of their plan.

Those are just a few examples I came up with. I hope you don’t have these events frequently enough that you have one (or more) examples ready right now. What examples have you had in the past? Take a moment to consider how things might have been different if you had acted sooner, or acted later.

What are some of the issues that might turn ugly on you in the next few weeks or months? What do you need to do to prepare? What are you willing to do, should all attempts fail, and it come to a battle? Take a few moments and consider your options.
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