In order to be a leader you’ve got to have followers. So leadership begins by influencing other people – your followers.
There are many ways to influence people. You can guide, direct, prioritize, incentivize and order someone around. But I’ve learned through my experience that most effective and authentic way to influence others is through your example, through who you are. In other words, your character.
Former Marine officer Donavan Campbell, and author of the Leaders Code, defines character as “an honorable individual condition gained through the intentional pursuit of virtue and maintained over the course of a lifetime.”
Alexandre Havard, the author of Virtuous Leadership, asks “what is the ‘content of character?’ It is virtue, or, more precisely the set of classical human virtues – above all, magnanimity, humility, prudence, courage, self-control and justice.”
The reference to ‘classical’ human virtues is important because the appreciation of character is not a new phenomenon. Philosophers, sages and warriors from all cultures and religious traditions have written about the importance of virtue. The Greek philosophers wrote about the ‘cardinal’ virtues. These four ‘hinge’ virtues were considered the foundation of a good life: courage, practical wisdom, justice and self control.
Both ancient wisdom and modern social science agree on the importance of virtue. Martin Seligman is considered the founder of the Positive Psychology movement. In his book Authentic Happiness he wrote that there were consistent virtues among diverse cultures throughout history. Seligman wrote about the “…astonishing convergence across millennia and across cultures about virtue and strength. Confucius, Aristotle, Aquinas, the Bushido samurai code, the Bhagavad-Gita, and other venerable tradition disagree on details, but all these codes include six core virtues:”
- Wisdom and knowledge
- Love and humanity
- Spirituality and transcendence