Leadership & Character – Vision & Meaning

Vision concept with hand pressing a button

The ability to make good decisions is an important skill for leaders. In order to be able to make good decisions, leaders must have a clear focus. This focus can come from the vision that the leader is trying to achieve and the underlying purpose or meaning that is served by the vision. So, let’s take a look at the importance of vision and meaning in character-based leadership.

In their book “Built to Last”, James Collins and Jerry Porras reveal the successful habits of what they regard as visionary companies. They provide compelling evidence that the average financial returns of visionary companies far outstrip the average financial returns of companies that are not considered visionary. A well-articulated business vision should include the core purpose and the core values of the organization.

Collins and Porras argue that there is no right set of core values for being a visionary organization.  Two organizations could have substantially different ideologies and still both be visionary. A strong vision drives behaviour.  The key to success is for the organizations to deeply believe in their core values and core purpose so that leaders at all levels within the organization make decisions that are consistent with the vision.

In the end, the legacy of an organization will be measured by its actions and how those actions align with the core values and core purpose of the organization.

In order to understand how the idea of vision could apply at an individual leadership level, we can look at a concept that Vince Molinaro shares in his book entitled “The Leadership Contract.” In this book, Molinaro asserts that leaders should recognize that they take on a series of obligations – similar to the “terms and conditions” you would find in a contract – when the mantle of leadership is thrust upon them. One of the terms and conditions is that leaders should understand how their day-to-day decisions will – over time – define their perceived values and beliefs as a leader.

Leaders should be intentional about defining what they stand for as a leader and the legacy that they want to leave as a leader.  This in essence becomes the leader’s personal vision statement.

Daniel Goleman, a popular author who wrote several books on the subject of emotional intelligence made the following statement in his book entitled “Working with Emotional Intelligence”:  “What also fuels … passion for work is a larger sense of purpose or passion. Given the opportunity, people gravitate to what gives them meaning, to what engages them to the fullest commitment, talent, energy, and skills.”   Daniel Pink in his book entitled “Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us” shares that the three most important motivators for individuals are: autonomy, mastery and purpose.  We know that strong vision drives behaviour.

We can also assert that meaning and purpose are important in driving the right leadership behaviours.  As a result, we must integrate positive virtues and values into personal leadership in order to build strong character-based leaders who will focus on the achievement of positive meaning and purpose in their organizations.

In the past few decades there has been a shift in the assessment of leadership capabilities. In the previous millennium we would focus on a person’s IQ or cognitive intelligence as a means to assess their potential effectiveness as a leader. The thinking was that a person with a high IQ would be an effective leader simply because of their cognitive intelligence. This assumption turned out to be much less true than at first thought. So, the concept of EQ or emotional intelligence was introduced into leadership assessment because a person with a high EQ is able to exert significant influence over others.

However, recent business failures have demonstrated that a high IQ together with a high EQ is no guarantee of success. If a person does not have a high CQ (Character Quotient), then you have someone who is very smart and very influential who might pursue a wrong-minded strategy because their sense of purpose and meaning is not driven by good character values.

As a result, leadership assessment and leadership training must take into consideration the integration of positive character traits in order to help develop a Personal Leadership Effectiveness Culture that reinforces a strong CQ (Character Quotient) within the organizational culture.

As always, I welcome your feedback. You can connect with me via email or telephone or leave a comment right here on the site.

Until next time,

David Town, CHRL, is a facilitator and coach of leadership and management principles that enable individuals and organizations to build greater leadership competency, resulting in higher performance and higher employee engagement. David has a particular focus on effectively managing conversations involving confrontation or conflict. As well, he provides insights and assessment strategies for integrating character competencies into leadership skills resulting in increased trust and reduced risk for leaders. David is President of Your Leadership Matters Inc.

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