Editor’s Note: A version of this story appeared in MyCentralJersey.com. This blog post is Part Two of a two-part story about developing character in leaders.
In Part One of the story, Chad Storlie discussed his hardest days in the military during the opening phase of Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003, and how it related to building character. Read Part One of Storlie’s experience here.
That time convinced him, for the rest of his life, on the vital role of “character” as the most important leadership trait. Below are more examples of how to develop it.
Open, Honest and Fact-based
The discussion of enemy attack numbers in that hot Baghdad conference room did not require any physical courage. It did, however, require immense moral courage. There also was a reliance on honesty, facts based on multiple and reliable sources, and a commitment to openly share results, methods, and assumptions. That way, everyone would possess the same information and understanding.
Nothing good ever occurs in the dark, undiscussed, and unrecognized. Improvement and change come when people face understood problems with the same set of facts to resolve the problem and advance a solution.
The Most Important Asset
It comes as a shock to many people and leaders that it was the military, and not corporate or civic America, that taught me the most important asset an organization will ever have: people.
In Iraq, I concluded every mission proposal with a set of the “Special Operation Forces (SOF) Truths.”
One of the SOF Truths is: “Humans are more important than hardware.”
It was my job to ensure that the missions conducted by Special Forces were as safe as possible to both the soldiers and civilians. Character recognizes that all ideas, results, innovations, and success ultimately come from people that are challenged, led, educated, respected, and appreciated.
When you lose or drive away great people, success is rarely possible.
Let Others Speak Their Opinion
Non-military leaders assume that U.S. Gen. George S. Patton is the central role model for the development of great military leaders. Leaders like Patton are exceedingly rare, which is why he is studied.
Instead, leaders that deal with the daily challenges of innovation, customers, competition, employee development, education, revenue, profitability, and engagement use their character to hold their voice. A leader with character is quiet so that others can speak, share, and describe the problems that they see and experience.
A quiet leader employs learning to develop the strength of character to create positive change and improvement.
Never Static, Always Improving
A leader with character never has enough character.
Character is a leadership attribute that always needs more because the process of building character is an ongoing exercise, not a “one-and-done” leadership checklist. Leaders with character constantly seek new problems, new challenges, and to develop new leaders to continue to find, improve, and ultimately resolve problems.
Character remains the ultimate attribute for leaders to exercise, to employ, and to improve so they can successfully solve problems in any arena.
Leaders with a keen understanding of their own strengths and an appreciation of the constant requirement for character development will be able to lead teams to understand and resolve challenges they have yet to meet.