The Character Based Leader. Instigating A Revolution.

January 20, 2013 — 20 Comments
Are You A Character Based Leader?

Are You A Character Based Leader?

It was a kick to the abdomen. Negative energy spiked across the room. The collective shield went up. The message they heard was that they and their work were nothing special. None of their efforts counted. All because THAT word was used at an all-hands meeting to explain the reason for outsourcing.

That word was “commodity”.

Per ~ A reasonably homogeneous good or material, bought and sold freely as an article of commerce.

And yes, this actually happened!

The outcome (even with outsourcing as part of the plan) would’ve been very different, if our executive had followed Jane Perdue’s advice.

Jane believes that “Using Your Head to Manage and Your Heart to Lead” is critical and this advice is also the title of her chapter in the Lead Change Group’s book, “The Character Based Leader”.  Jane is one of 21 authors of this definitional and instructional book.

She suggests we need to move away from being heavily skewed towards task achievement. To be a quality leader, we must deliberately balance between task achievement and relationships. People understanding and caring are necessary or we risk becoming the “he” (like our executive) in the “he-made-me-feel-like-a-filing-cabinet” leader that appears in Jane’s chapter.

A Crisis in Leadership. A Call to Action.

❝ People aren’t satisfied with where they are and where their leaders are… We have a crisis in leadership and a need to personally be involved in changing the world of leadership for the better. ❞

That’s a call to action from Mike Henry Sr., the Founder of the Lead Change Group. No surprise that the sub-title of “The Character Based Leader” book is “Instigating a Leadership Revolution… One Person at a Time”.

Mike’s call to action got me energized into thinking about how we can actively support this revolution. Three relatively easy (I hope) actions came to mind, all grounded from various chapters in the “The Character Based Leader” book.

Please let me know — Would you be able to do these?

Think Intentionally About The Choices We Make

Add Intentionality to Your Hello!

Add Intentionality to Your Hello!
Photo credit: stockimages

Start the revolution within your organization by having a conversation with your direct reports and your team using Chery Gegelman’s “Questions to Ponder on Becoming a Character-Based Leader”. Her chapter ends the book, but I think it’s a great conversation starter.

One of my favorite questions is: “How do you greet people when you see them?”

Simple. Yet powerfully demonstrates the degree of “intentionality” in our lives and our leadership persona. And “intentionality”, per Tara R. Alemany in her chapter titled: “The Choices We Make”, is a key skill for character based leaders.

If this exercise resonates, expand it. Reserve time at the end of your meetings in the year ahead and do a “one chapter discuss-athon” at each meeting. With 23 chapters to read and discuss, you will find that being a character based leader will naturally become a focus for you and your team.

Institutionalize The Character Based Leader

Choose 3 Character Based Leader Words For Goal Setting

Choose 3 Character Based Leader Words For Goal Setting
Photo credit: by satit_srihin

For focus that is more formalized, turn annual corporate goal setting, which is usually so routine and “meh”, into a process that can actually be inspirational and bring you a return-on-investment. Take a cue from the New Year’s approach of choosing three words to focus on for the year — in this case, three character based leader words.

As I read through “The Character Based Leader” book, these words spoke to me:

  • integrity, humility, intentional, heart, connected, respect
  • morals, accountability, honesty, language, perseverance

And compassion.

Which brings me back to our “commodity” executive. A character based leader would show compassion towards this executive. It would be difficult to do, but being a character based leader isn’t always easy.

Become Part of the Community

Being a character based leader is easier if you’re part of a community. You have a shared mission and like-minded values. You’re creating together, vetting ideas and moving forward with support.

Be Part of the Character Based Leader Community

Be Part of the Character Based Leader Community
Photo credit: by savit keawtavee

I now follow all 21 authors of “The Character Based Leader” on Twitter and encourage you to do the same. Connect with them to interact and engage. To get started, sneak a peek at their Twitter profiles and hit the follow button. Take the time to read their blogs. Here are the authors in alphabetical order:

Your Thoughts?

I’m glad Will Lukang, my friend and one of the 21 authors of “The Character Based Leader”, sent me a copy of this book. I’m enough of a fan to have also spent my own dollars to obtain my own copy and hope you will, too. There’s much more in this book than what’s covered in this post.
So, what are your thoughts?

  • How much of “The Character Based Leader” is part of your leadership?
  • Is this the type of leadership we need today?
  • What steps have you taken to become a character based leader and have they worked?

I’d love to continue the conversation and look forward to your dialogue in the comments and please…

#TakeThisMoment to strengthen your resolve to become a character based leader. ~ Jackie Yun

20 responses to The Character Based Leader. Instigating A Revolution.

  1. Am all about that heart connection and feel it is important to engage and keep the conversation going. We do learn from one another. This is an excellent list of Twitter leaders, Jackie. Great resource for all of us.

  2. Hi Jackie,

    There’s even a greater reason to develop those heart skills you mention in this post. It speaks to performance, resilience, empowerment – “stress undressing”.

    Signals are sent to the brain via the autonomic nervous system, which then determines what happens next. Under stress (negative thoughts and emotions), the stress response is elicited. But, when you are able to balance your nervous system by changing the way you think and feel, you activate a different part of the brain – the prefrontal cortex – this is the part responsible for executive functioning. It is how you operate from a higher place, making wiser and more intuitive decisions, acting more compassionately and “undressing your stress” as you go.

    You touch upon some important points that bear repeating: intentionality; minding the balance between tasks and relationships; finding words that resonate for you; and finding your community, even if it is a virtual one like our “Summits”. 😉

    Finally, I see I have some reading and “following” to do.


    • Hello Marianna,

      Glad you gave us an explanation of the physiological underpinnings. Very helpful!

      Looks like you, too, are choosing words of focus for the year. Per your “Words to Live By” post at, I see your words are listen, patience, acceptance and release. These could be good ones for the character based leader.

      Here’s to using words to help keep our “heart rhythm smooth”, our “heart wave length” steady — and to help us improve our “heart skills”. ♥

      (By the way, I just love these phrases from your post, Marianna.)


  3. Jackie —

    Happy heartfelt thanks for your gracious write-up in sharing the character-based leadership word…the world needs more of it and more people like you!

    With a smile,


    • Jane,

      Per Mother Teresa — every time you smile at someone, it is an action of love, a gift to that person, a beautiful thing.

      Such a gift you’ve given!! My heart is basking happily in your smile & thanks!


  4. I’m so glad that you started up your own blog, Jackie! You had written such wonderful posts as a guest blogger on Will Lukang’s site but I knew there was a budding author in you… and this inspiring article on character-based leadership is proof of that 🙂

    Onward and upward, as they say! (I will be adding this book to my 2013 reading list as well as any of these names that I have missed to my leadership twitter list – Thanks so much!)

    • Dorlee,

      I’m definitely excited about getting into the world of blogging. Much appreciation goes to Will Lukang for all his support and to folks like you who have been cheering me on. What a lovely community to be in!

      Speaking of communities, I like your Twitter Leadership List. Very well curated.

      Appreciating *YOU* & our connection,

  5. Jackie, thanks for sharing your reaction to the book and the group. I think that’s a great idea to focus on 3 words. Glad to see the blog too! It looks great.

    • Mike ~ It’s been a pleasure to be part of this leadership revolution! You and all the authors are quite inspiring. And thank you for the compliment re: my blog. 😀

  6. Jackie,

    How appalling – a leader using the terms “commodity” and “employees” as synonyms. Thanks for sharing your story and for providing an antidote to soulless leaders seeking only to improve the bottom line.

    • Jennifer ~ Your ethics, interpersonal and work focus touchstone stories in your “Leadership Touchstones” chapter could provide the perspective this executive needed. If he’s motivated and given support & compassion, this could portend positive change. And you know how we all love come back stories! Since this situation happened a few years back, maybe the change has already occurred — fingers crossed. Thank you for taking the time to be part of the dialogue here.

      • Jackie, it’s fantastic how you have incorporated so many of the aspects of the book into your thinking about leadership. Hearing your analysis – it’s helped me add to my knowledge too. Thanks again.

    • Agree! Such an insensitive message! I think many busy, under-pressure managers (and even those not under pressure!) become so egocentric that they focus only on their own performance. They only manage upwards, not caring about their staff or peers, unless they are a threat. Unfortunately, this behavior is often condoned by the very top leader. I have to read the book to find out how to change this within an organization… how to be a radical team player!

      • Hello J,

        Cheers to you on being a “radical team player” supporting the character-based leader revolution!

        Did you catch Kumud Ajmani’s (@AjmaniK) response to your comment via Twitter? Kumud tweeted: “Reminds me of #AcresOfDiamonds :)”.

        SPOILER ALERT — moral of the #AcresOfDiamonds parable coming up!

        Not being familiar with the #AcresOfDiamonds parable, I looked it up and found the punchline –> “Had Ali Hafed remained at home and dug in his own cellar, or underneath his own wheat fields or in his own garden, instead of wretchedness, starvation, and death by suicide in a strange land, he would have had ‘acres of diamonds.’. Definitely something for us leaders to keep top of mind when thinking about our teams.

        Thank you, J and Kumud, for your thoughtful comments. I am thoroughly enjoying the dialogue!


  7. What an honor it is to hear our own words reflected back to us by someone who has digested them and made them her own.

    Yes, being a character-based leader isn’t easy at times. But you are 100% correct! Becoming part of a community of people all seeking to lead with character makes it so much easier.

    Thank you for being such a wonderful part of our Lead Change community, Jackie. You have always been supportive and kind in our online interactions, and I truly appreciate you!

    • Hello Tara,

      You are very welcome! By the way, I also enjoyed your second chapter, “The Power of Perseverance”, and chuckled when I saw the title of one of your sections — “Mules Unite!”. With that note, hopefully, people’s curiosity will really be piqued enough to buy the book and embrace becoming a character based leader.

      Grateful for our interactions.

  8. Jackie,

    I appreciate your thoughtful review of The Character-Based Leader and your blog is terrific!
    As a contributing author (Ch. 19 “Professional Intimacy: The key to being a sustainable leader”), I was also witness to the many of the author’s admirable efforts to “walk the talk” and get the word out about this unusual “How To” book on leadership and am proud to walk with them.

    To Your (and your reader’s) Sustainable Leadership!

    • Christina,

      Thank you for your kind words! I found your chapter to be very content rich. Your equation of 1(I) + 1(you) = 3(we) is such a good reminder of the power of relationships. And since I am particularly partial to how-to’s, I found your “Three Simple Steps to Stay Cool Under Pressure: Notice, Acknowledge and Rename” to be very helpful.

      And let me echo your sentiments ~ “Here’s to Sustainable Leadership!”.

  9. Jackie,
    Congratulations on your new blog! Great ideas and advice to think about and put into action right away. As for character-based leaders, I think success, no matter what arena (business, personal life, public life, school, relationships, etc.) is defined by one’s character — regardless of one’s position, wealth, grades, toys, etc. So, yes, I definitely think it’s the type of leadership we need today. And always. I also appreciated your posting of the author links – I clicked away and enjoyed more good reads. Looking forward to more “#TakeThisMoment.”

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