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Character counts for great leaders

By Elaine Lankford

Have you ever done a trust fall? A trust fall is an exercise in which one person falls straight back and “trusts” that the person behind them will catch them and break their fall.

To some of us, it sounds risky. Will I be caught before I hit the ground, or will I end up with something broken? In order for a trust fall to work, the two people involved must have total confidence.

Hopefully, there is one person in your life you believe would absolutely have your back should you need to call on them. You probably feel that way, because you have a solid relationship with that person. When you know you can count on someone, it makes all the difference in the world.

In business, we need to take the time to reflect both on ourselves and on those around us in order to determine if each relationship is built on solid ground or shifting sand.

To grow as an influential leader, it is imperative that we acknowledge the Law of Solid Ground, which states: “Trust is the foundation of leadership.”

Think back over your career and identify one person you felt total confidence in following. Chances are you trusted them to a level that made carrying out their instruction easy. Then think back to a time when the leader you were attempting to follow just didn’t measure up to what you envisioned a leader should be. Most likely you felt mistrust.

In John Maxwell’s book, “The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership,” he states: “Leaders cannot repeatedly break trust with people and continue to influence them.”

I dare say this is at the core of our country’s current political unrest. We, the people, have grown weary of electing officials who make substantial promises and then never carry them out. Governmental officials have probably hit the lowest point in history when it comes to having influence over the American people.

Politics aside, how are we as leaders utilizing the Law of Solid Ground, and do we have the trust of those that follow us? If not, how do we gain people’s trust? In a word — character. If trust is the fuel that makes leadership possible, then character is the natural resource that trust comes from.

Strong character communicates three things to others. First, character communicates consistency. When someone models consistent behavior in every area of his/her life, I know that’s a person who will follow through on what he/she states or promises.

Second, character communicates potential. Think about how you feel when you see someone who is wasting their potential. Wasted potential may be a sign of underlying character flaws. However, leaders with good character can cast a vision that people are both responsive to and are able to see value in. In addition, someone who embraces his/her potential can encourage others to release theirs.

Finally, character communicates respect. Gaining the respect of those around you is the key to long-lasting influence. The leadership decisions you make today will determine the level of respect you will receive in the future.

Remember, character builds trust and lays a foundation on which the Law of Solid Ground rests.

Elaine Lankford is a John Maxwell certified coach, teacher, trainer, and speaker. She is the founder of Transforming Love Ministries, LLC and a board member of the Christian Business Coalition of Hampton Roads. Email her at elaine@elainelankford.com.