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Leadership and Character - Bonar Institute for Purposeful Leadership

At the Bonar Institute, we believe that the work of a purposeful leader, in part, is to:

  • create a compelling vision
  • be inclusive
  • be accountable for yourself and for others
  • be a good listener
  • Of course, the underpinning of these must be good intentions, values, skills, and self-management. However, a leader must be believable, or they won’t be seen as authentic, which means their behaviour is aligned with their intentions.
  • This is where “character” comes in. A leader should be a person of good, trustworthy character.

What does “good character” actually mean?
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary describes character as

“the complex mental and ethical traits marking and often individualizing a person, group, or nation.”

Everyone has character. You have character, those things that distinctly mark you as you. Every day, your words and actions reveal your character.

But what drives your character and how can you manage it? The following graphic identifies the internal and external elements that form your character and provides a self-management tool.

Who you are starts with your intentions.

Identifying your beliefs (what you believe to be true), your values (what is important to you, and what you will and won’t do), your objectives (what you are focused on achieving) and priorities (what takes first, second importance) is a critical place to start.

The concept of intention manifests on both a macro and micro level. On a macro level the focus is how you would like to be remembered as a leader. On a micro level, intention applies to specific situations. For example, how you behave on a daily basis in various situations. After creating clear intentions your thoughts and feelings must be acknowledged and managed.

Your thoughts are assumptions, the information upon which we are basing your perspectives, ideas, feelings and emotions that come forth.  For example, is it uncomfortable to have a certain conversation with a colleague or a friend? All of this inner work manifests in your behaviour, your words and actions.

Certainly, there is an element of skill in how you communicate (skills are located in the outer ring of the Character Model©), but the place to start is with the inner elements.

The inner elements of intention, thoughts and feelings require the courage to be self-aware, to notice and manage what you think and feel in order to behave as we choose.

When your behaviour aligns with your intentions, values and skills,  trust is generated – both with yourself and with others. The overarching definition of “good character” is a person focused on constructive behaviour, who demonstrates integrity through honest, respectful communication, commitments kept, compassion and the courage tozhold themselves and others accountable.

The truest test of civilization is not found in censuses, nor the size of cities, nor outputs. Rather, it is found in the people the country nurtures for the greater good. Good character.

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