Leadership Character Trait #6: A Pervasive Sense of Humility

By Dave Kahle

In a previous post, I wrote that qualities of character in the CEO were a more important indicator of business success than the business model. In this following series of posts, I’m going to share those qualities that I believe mark a great business leader.

Leadership Character Trait #6: A Pervasive Sense of Humility

I have already argued for the following essential character traits for a business leader: an unquenchable work ethic, an ability and propensity to learn and a continuous quest for MOREunwavering self-control, and rock-solid integrity. To that list I’m adding a pervasive sense of humility.

On the surface, it seems like an unlikely candidate for a leader. However, once understood, it becomes a bedrock trait and a powerful asset in the psyche of an effective business leader.

First, let’s understand it

Humility is often defined as the quality of being humble. The dictionary defines ‘humble’ as “showing a modest estimate of one’s own importance.” Synonyms include ‘meek,’ ‘deferential,’ and ‘respectful’.

It is often confused with a sense of weakness and obsequiousness, which is overly self-deprecating. There is nothing weak about humility. In fact, it takes far more strength to exhibit humility than it does to default to its opposite: Pride.  Read more

Leadership Character Trait #5: Rock-solid Integrity

By Dave Kahle

In a previous post, I wrote that qualities of character in the CEO were a more important indicator of business success than the business model. In this following series of posts, I’m going to share those qualities that I believe mark a great business leader.

Leadership Character Trait #5: Rock-solid Integrity

In my last few posts, I have argued for these character traits: an unquenchable work ethic, an ability and propensity to learn and a continuous quest for MORE, and unwavering self-control. To that list, I’m adding rock-solid integrity.

Understanding integrity

Integrity is often misunderstood. Many people consider it synonymous with honesty. While honesty is a component of integrity, it’s much narrower and finds its definition almost exclusively in communications with other people. One is honest with others and to other people. Integrity is larger and encompasses more of life.

Here’s the definition for the Oxford Dictionary: integrity: adherence to moral and ethical principles; soundness of moral character; honesty.

While we all understand honesty, it is the ‘adherence to moral and ethical principles’ that draws our attention. You cannot claim to have integrity unless you have a set of moral and ethical principles to which you adhere. Notice that there are two parts to this. First, you must have a set of moral or ethical principles. Then, it’s not enough to have them, you must consistently act on them.  Read more

Leadership Character Trait #4: An Unwavering Self-control

By Dave Kahle

In a previous post, I wrote that qualities of character in the CEO were a more important indicator of business success than the business model. In this following series of posts, I’m going to share those qualities that I believe mark a great business leader.

Leadership Character Trait #4: An Unwavering Self-control

Previously, I argued for these qualities: an unquenchable work ethic, an ability and propensity to learn and a continuous quest for MORE. To that list, I’m adding Unwavering self-control.

Specifically, that means that one exhibits the ability to control emotions, and to moderate words and actions. It has both a positive and a negative element to it. Let’s unpack this.

When it comes to controlling emotions, it means that you don’t let a flash of negative emotions erupt and produce negative results. For example, one of your customers may make a disparaging remark about your company, or one of your employees is late for the third time this week. Your natural tendency is to get irritated and defensive and let that emotion out in a way that may damage the relationship permanently. That’s a lack of self-control. On the other hand, if you catch yourself, take a deep breath, and choose your words and your reaction mind-fully, you are acting with self-control.

Not only do we need to control our negative emotions, but we need to proactively and intentionally spread positive emotions. The classic book, The One Minute Manager, builds the case for walking around, finding something that your employees are doing well, and praising them for it. In other words, intentionally and willfully developing the habit of praising specific actions and thereby spreading positive emotions.  Read more

Leadership Character Trait #3: A Continuous Quest for More

By Dave Kahle

In a previous post, I wrote that qualities of character in the CEO were a more important indicator of business success than the business model. In this following series of posts, I’m going to share those qualities that I believe mark a great business leader.

Leadership Character Trait #3: A Continuous Quest for More

Here’s my nomination for a character trait that fuels business success: A continuous quest for MORE.

Let’s define MORE. I’m not talking about greed here, although money is a part of it.

MORE refers to the concept that, in every aspect of one’s life and business, there are greater heights to be experienced, greater accomplishments to achieve, greater impact to be had, greater knowledge to be obtained, greater wisdom to be acquired, greater good to be done, and, yes, more money to be made, more customers to acquire, more revenue to realize, more markets to penetrate, more employees to hire, more influence to extend.

Regardless of where you are at, there is always MORE.

For a person with this character trait, the status quo is never acceptable. The status quo is only today’s version, and this moment’s situation. It’s a temporary circumstance which can be made better. After all, there is always MORE.  Read more

Leadership Character Trait #2: The Ability and Propensity to Learn

By Dave Kahle

In a previous post, I wrote that qualities of character in the CEO were a more important indicator of business success than the business model. In this following series of posts, I’m going to share those qualities that I believe mark a great business leader.

Leadership Character Trait #2: The Ability and Propensity to Learn

Here’s my nomination for a character trait that fuels business success: The ability and propensity to learn.

I’m not talking strictly about acquiring knowledge in the sense that one learns in school. For the successful business person, this character trait is demonstrated by the habit of gathering ideas from a variety of sources, accurately evaluating a situation, and then combining the details of the situation with the ideas garnered to modify or make adjustments in his/her behavior, or the behavior of the organization.

I know that’s pretty complex. Let’s unpack it.

Gather ideas from a variety of sources.

Folks who have this character trait continually and proactively seek out good ideas. These are the people who get the audio books and listen to them as they drive. They have rules for themselves like: “Read one new business book every month.” Read more

Leadership Character Trait #1: An Unshakable Work Ethic

By Dave Kahle

In a previous post, I wrote that qualities of character in the CEO were a more important indicator of business success than the business model. In this, and the next few posts, I’m going to share those qualities that I believe mark a great business leader.

Leadership Character Trait #1: An Unshakable Work Ethic

Unfortunately, not everyone has this trait. And, the distribution of it seems to be diminishing among us – it seems to be getting rarer and rarer. Folks who have this trait understand, deeply down in their psyche, that work is necessary for human beings to exist, and that it is necessary for their personal dignity and self-worth. But it’s not just an idea. It doesn’t proceed from an intellectual position. Rather, it’s a deep, inner drive. These people are compelled to find work and do work.

These are the people who show up 15 minutes early and stay a few minutes late. A day off, while appreciated, isn’t something to strive for. All in all, they would rather work than take excess days off.

On those occasions when they find themselves unemployed, they make work of finding the next position, and fill in with projects and part-time and temporary tasks, because It’s hard for them to be idle.

The concept of winning the lottery and retiring early is scary, not attractive. They can’t imagine themselves retiring to a life of leisure. They would go crazy getting up every day with no job to do. They can’t understand the 20-somethings that prefer a day of video games on the couch to a day of productive labor.  Read more

Finding the Right Business Model or Being the Right Business Leader?

By Dave Kahle

“Is there one business model that you would recommend to a budding entrepreneur?”

That was the question a young man asked me recently. I reflected for a moment over the past 25 years, and answered this way:

“No. I’ve worked with over 500 businesses, and in that pack there were lots of different business models. What I’ve seen is that the model is less important than the implementation on the part of the company’s leadership.”

Let me explain. It is, of course, possible to have a flawed business model. But, honestly, I have only seen one or two of those, where, no matter what the leadership does, the business is not going to survive. It’s just a bad idea.

These are usually the result of people who are passionate about a product or idea. Unfortunately, that passion displaces common sense, and they ride that idea until it has siphoned their resources and depleted their energy.

The world is not full of bad business models. On the other hand, it is crammed with models that can and do succeed, providing the leadership is effective.

The path toward success is rarely formed by the business model. Far more important are the skills and character of the leadership. Drop a highly skilled, high-character entrepreneur into any model, in any market, and watch as he/she leads that company to growth, prosperity and market leadership.

The ultimate path for business success is far more about improving yourself than it is about finding the right product, market or model. Read more

Lessons from Leadership: Interview with a Coffee Chain Owner

by Chris Cloud

The following interview is the fourth of a series of four interviews with missional business owners on the lessons they’ve learned about leadership.

 

Pete has established a chain of cafes and a hospitality training business in Asia. His business employs over 120 people and has trained staff for 50 other businesses.

1. What is your philosophy of leadership?

A test of leadership is that people around you are growing. If I want to look at whether my leadership is effective, I look around and see are my people growing as people, is their capacity increasing? Is my leadership creating capacity in others, making disciples, growing other leaders? That’s my benchmark, my measurement of leadership.

I realize now that a growing business is the only kind of business that can truly develop and grow people because it forces people to grow with the business, otherwise there’s a tendency to just stagnate and that doesn’t help anyone. Our business is growing fast, and it’s given so many people an opportunity to rise to the occasion and grow up with the business.

2. What experiences, people, or philosophies have most influenced the way you view and practice leadership?

My big brother has a big influence on me because of his style. He influences people, but it’s through humility. He’s the teaching pastor of a very large church, but he’s just another guy when we’re together.

My mother has also been a big influence – she has been our greatest fan and our greatest critic. Not in the sense that she’s always criticizing, but she knew you had more to give and could go higher. A secure home gives kids a good launching pad. Mom was always for me. She would praise little things like, “you are so helpful, the way you helped that person was so great…” She elevated us in a positive sense and she would definitely pull us aside and give us critical feedback as well. With my staff, I want them to know “I am for you, I want you to succeed so desperately” – then they are secure and I can help them “be more” rather than settle for mediocrity.

In business and in life, you have to first know yourself. What are your strengths? What are your passions? Don’t try to be someone else, or copy someone else’s business. Have a strong core identity and values, and then go and be the best version of yourself that you can be.

3. How has your view of leadership changed over your years leading a BAM company overseas?

I used to be a consensus builder, I like everybody happy, so I’ve led before in the past where it’s all hugs and “ra ra” and everybody likes you. However, but I’ve seen that fail and I realize that it requires more than just leading by consensus. I have to ask, “What’s the most loving thing I can do for this person, within the context of my company and business?” Sometimes the kindest thing I can do is really have a hard conversation with somebody and tell them “you are not measuring up”.

The weakest form of leadership is when I have to say, “I’m the boss” so I try not to operate that way.
Read more

Lessons from Leadership: Interview with a Manufacturing Founder

by Chris Cloud

The following interview is the third of a series of four interviews with missional business owners on the lessons they’ve learned about leadership.

 

Jim co-founded a manufacturing company in South Asia focused on creating jobs for the marginalised and exploited.

1. What is your philosophy of leadership?

Know the principles you believe in and follow them when you encounter difficult decisions.

2. What experiences, people, or philosophies have most influenced the way you view and practice leadership?

Probably 4 years at the Air Force Academy and 7 years active duty. They strongly emphasized character in leadership and following core values, which for the Air Force are: Integrity First, Service Before Self, and Excellence in All We Do.

3. How has your view of leadership changed over your years leading a BAM company overseas?

I’ve realized that taking the “nice guy” route is easy, but isn’t always the best thing for the people you lead.
Read more

Lessons from Leadership: Interview with a CEO to CEOs

by Chris Cloud

The following interview is the second of a series of four interviews with missional business owners on the lessons they’ve learned about leadership.

 

Brett is a CEO who coaches and advises other CEO’s on how to run their companies wisely. He is a Christ-follower in the marketplace, involved in mentoring businesses around the world.

What is your philosophy of leadership?

To be a good leader, you must first be a good follower. Everyone follows someone or something.  Even if you’re the CEO, you must follow after a purpose greater than yourself or what you consider to be ‘the right thing’ to do.

Here’s why: If you think of yourself as a mere island, leading by yourself, for yourself, you will be here today, gone tomorrow and no one will notice, or even care, that you’re gone. You will have lived, you will have died, and at best … you will have simply not mattered. At worst, not only will you have failed to contribute to society in any meaningful way, you quite possibly may have become complicit in evil. But, if choose to lead from an other-centered perspective, regularly connected to and informed by the source that imagined, formed and breathed life into your very being, for purposes far greater than anything you could ever ask or imagine on your own; then, you will have led effectively and will have truly lived a life worth living.

What experiences, people, or philosophies have most influenced the way you view and practice leadership?

I’ve learned vastly more from my failures and times in the ‘desert,’ than from my successes and ‘mountain-top’ experiences.  Times of trial purify us. Suffering quickens us and sensitizes us to the needs of others around us. I’ve seen this to be true in the lives of all great leaders I admire (Washington, Lincoln, Mandela, Gandhi, Joseph, David, Jesus himself), and I’ve found it to be true in my own life.  Read more