Character counts. Character matters. We have heard these phrases over and over. John Maxwell in “The 21 Indispensable Qualities Of A Leader” asks the following question: “Have you ever seen highly talented people suddenly fall apart when they achieved a certain level of success?
I know in my personal business coaching practice that collaborates with self-employed business owners, entrepreneurs, solo professionals and corporate management that yes, I have seen highly talented people fall apart when they rise to a certain level.
As leaders it is not only devastating to them but it can be highly damaging to their organization.
Leaders: It’s About Character
Maxwell cites Steven Berglas, a psychologist at Harvard Medical School and author of The Success Syndrome. In summary, Berglas says that people who achieve great heights but lack the bedrock character to sustain them through the stress are headed for disaster. He believes they are destined for one of more of the four A’s: arrogance, painful feelings of aloneness, destructive adventure-seeking, or adultery. Each is a terrible price to pay for weak character.
Leaders: Character Check: They Must Step Away To Step Up
If you have found yourself being sucked in by one of the four A’s that Berglas identifies, Maxwell encourages you to do what you must to step away from some of the stress of your success, and seek professional help.
Here’s the challenge. When you have more success, money, increased prestige and all that goes with it coming in you start to think of yourself as bullet proof. After all in starting your own business or running a small business you have taken great risks. And, now your hard work is paying off. Maybe you are bullet proof for the moment in the business realm.
But that doesn’t mean that you are immune to adverse risks in the personal realm. Too often as a business coach I have seen business owners and executives fill their need for risk taking outside of the business. The results are almost always bad.
In fact, I have seen more leaders lose their positions in companies or their own businesses due to lack of character in the personal realm. Unaddressed cracks in character only get deeper and more destructive with time. Step away from poor character traits and correct them. Only then you can step back up to being the leader you want to be.
Leaders Know That Business Character And Personal Character Are Connected
Even if you are not struggling with the four A’s you should still examine the condition of your character. Do your words match your action all the time? Do you follow through as promised at work and at home? If you tell your children that you are going to be at one of their events, are you there?
All of the above can apply to both your business and personal worlds. Interestingly, what I have observed is that whatever is a negative character trait in one area ends up manifesting itself in the other either indirectly or with the same trait being manifested. Very often business can cover up character flaws in leaders because of good processes and accountability in the systems which ends up keeping things on track.
Yet, leaders and all human beings can find ways to sabotage the best of systems. In the end leaders have two areas they must observe with character. One is the business. The other is personal. And, leaders always need to be aware that what is negative character in the business will leak into their personal life. And, what is negative in their character will leak into the business life.
Do a character check. Is there something you can improve? If so, tackle it now. Tackling it tomorrow or some day means procrastination and probably never getting around to improving. As Maxwell and Berglas point out, leaders cannot rise above the limitations of their character.