Life throws many challenges, she pushes you, propels you and prods you. How you behave, act and live through each of these challenges is your choice. Your character is who you are in these moments of choice.
We have good days and bad days. Good days give you joy, and bad days tests you, teaches you and how you deal with it makes you who you are. Your character is tested and revealed the most during adversities.
What are the key elements of Character ?
1. Commitment – how dedicated are you to who you are and what you seek to do? Words are necessary but actions provide the power and prove who you are and the important link between the two is Commitment. How would you feel, when someone who borrowed your book fails to return within the promised time? In every aspect of life, you need to walk and live your talk. Your thoughts, audio and video needs to be in sync.
2. Honesty – A journey within, to follow the inner voice that has both gentleness and clarity and helps you find who you really are. We need to be bold and courageous to follow this inner journey, to face who we are, what we are capable of, what we are uncomfortable with and be true and honest to the inner core. How authentic are you? Authenticity is not only being true to oneself, being yourself or “walking your talk” but also how you feel about yourself. Authenticity is when you are comfortable in your skin and also connecting with others without any hypocrisies.
3. Attitude – I find it rather strange that on Twitter, many choose to say thank you immediately if a mention or a Retweet has been made by someone who has more than 30,000 followers. Till then the person who has done a RT and Mention is completely ignored. This to me reveals the attitude of the person and a true display of their character. You reveal your character in how you choose to treat someone who can’t do anything for you. Your attitude is what you choose and something you have complete control of.
4. Respect – one of the values I was taught as a child is to give respect and then take. Respect not only those who are rich and famous but a waiter in a restaurant or a person who cleans the public toilets. Imagine if the public toilets in the airports weren’t cleaned or the trash wasn’t cleared. Would you like to do that job ? Respect a person irrespective of status or titles.
5. Abilities – your ability is in not how high your IQ is but depends to a great extent on your EI when you deal with others.
6. Courage – how often have you stepped out of your comfort zone and tried to be who you are or who you wanted to be? How many times have you approached your daily life with courage? I drive a lot of inspiration from reading or seeing or knowing people, who, despite their physical limitations, have ventured to climb Mountain Kilimanjaro or have engaged in similar activities.
7. Trust – no journey or relation begins without Trust. Your behavior, your act and your own inner journey should enable reliance to be placed on your integrity, strength, ability and who you are.
8. Empathy- how well are you able to identify with another’s situation, feelings and emotions? Do you like to take center stage by talking more than listening? Do you listen to understand or respond? The best gift you can give someone is your attention and empathy. How you empathize reveals your character?
9. Righteousness – doing the right thing at all times and in all circumstances whether or not anyone is watching or observing you. Does the end justify the means for you and do you allow the end to dominate your behavior? Do you listen to your inner voice or go by the herd mentality in situations of dilemma?
Inward change begins when you evaluate and reflect on your strengths, your blind spots and attitudes. You can be a leader when you look in the mirror and make changes you need to make. Leadership is not about titles or occupying a big position in an organization. It begins with small things in day-to-day life be it in how you respond to abuse on the street, how you behave in a crowd when you see something blatantly wrong, how you respond to someone who may not be able to do anything for you in your life and who you are when you feel your life is in the trenches.
-How are you revealing your character on a daily basis ?
-Are you humble in your acts and who you are ?
-Does leadership mean only occupying a title and position within an organization?
-How are you influencing those lives whom you touch on a daily basis ?
I was staying with my sister when I was visiting my family last week. One of her neighbors has two girls aged 5 and 7, Rita and Meeta. These two girls are the most adorable children I have ever met. They spend their entire evening at my sister’s house, after she and her husband get back home. One of the evenings, we were chatting and having fun with the kids when the younger girl, Rita whispers something in her sister, Meeta’s, ear and tells her don’t share. “Keep it a secret, ok promise.” She then looks at me from the corner of her eye with an abashed look. By then, Meeta, however reveals her secret. The secret being that Rita has a friend in school who loves her. Rita looks at us sheepishly and says he keeps saying I love you. But I don’t. So my sister asks her, so why don’t you tell him what you feel? Oh, but I have only over heard and he hasn’t told me directly. When he tells me directly, I’ll let him know. My sister asks her how would she tell him, and I was surprised with her response. She said, “I love my parents and my sister, and as of now that’s it.”
Mind you, this is a girl who is barely 5 years old.
What lessons of leadership can we learn from children?
- Clarity – Rita was very clear in communicating about her experience, what love meant to her and why this boy’s behavior made her uncomfortable. Even at that age she was crystal clear and did not mince her words. She was confused and her mind was possibly wrestling with what she should do. She in her childlike innocence revealed her secret to her sister. Leaders often know what is needed but many times get lost in their mental chatter. Often the solution lies in mindfulness and following the heart and not laboring the mind. The time to act is not when you are confused.
- Emotional Intelligence – Rita had overheard this remark but she had the EQ not to react to that boy, because that comment was not yet made directly to her. She had the emotional awareness to not react immediately but prepare herself if and when that happens. As leaders, of utmost importance, is striking the right balance between IQ and EQ. Many times the team may consist of people who may not have understood what is required of them or may be preoccupied with some other thoughts. A leader will do well to recognize such situations and not publicly humiliate team members who err or consistently seem preoccupied. Leaders can navigate through challenging times if they have a high EQ. Being self-aware and empathetic is critical.
- Discuss and Ask for Help – Rita was feeling embarrassed to discuss what was troubling her in front of my sister and I, but my gut feel is that she told Meeta realizing that she would tell us. Rita did that because she wanted to discuss and see what we had to tell her. As leaders, you can’t be expected to know everything. If you are not sure of something, ask, discuss and clarify. No one can fly solo all the time. It is better to ask for support rather than make a mistake and lose the trust of your team members.
How many times have you been in awe at the questions that children ask ?
Have the questions that a child asks made you reflect?
What have you learned from observing children?
Children are always curious, they never stop asking questions. They are on a never-ending quest to learn, to share, to try out new things. They follow their heart and lead from within though they may be too young to realize this.
Don’t we as adults and leaders need to learn a thing or two from children?
Communication can make or mar relationships at any level. Clarity is key to communication. Communication is not only verbal but also includes body language. Clarity in communication substantiates supports, authenticates and endorses the conversation.
Rely on the meaning, not just the words. You have to always think Why are you saying what you are saying and How do you want your receiver to feel after you have said what you have to say.
What is Important in Communication?
1. Clarity – less is often more and keep it simple and short. This is one of the main reasons for the importance of elevator speech.
2. Commonsense – a word once spoken cannot be recalled. Know Yourself no matter what situation you may be in. You need to apply good judgement and keep a degree of level-headed in every aspect of life.
3. Consistency – trust is built only with consistency. Being reliable is key to building credibility in communication as in life. Lack of communication is another way of saying lack of trust.
4. Confidence – credence, conviction, belief and trust are key pillars of communication. The way you communicate will reflect your level of confidence.
5. Character – all forms of communication demonstrates your character, personality, mental make-up, level of integrity and the values that you hold.
6. Commitment – your word is your bond and your personal image. Commitment includes not only a deal, a promise, a contract, but also day-to-day spoken words.
7. Creativity – a picture speaks volumes. Telling a story or giving an example or showing a visual often reinforces what you are trying to convey. Use your creativity in articulating your message.
8. Courage – Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak but it is also what it takes to sit down and listen – Winston Churchill. Courage is a mark of leadership and communication offers a multitude of channels to exhibit your gallantry in spoken and written form.
9. Consideration – You need to listen to understand rather than listen to respond. Nobody knows how much you know until they know how much you care.
10. Competence – You are how you express yourself. Competence needs effective communication.
Communication is an essential ingredient in our daily life. Silence is not the answer to avoid challenges. Communication gap is created by our apprehensions, fear, ego, assumptions, inability to address the issue and ask proper questions. Are you underestimating the importance of communication?
‘Do You Communicate’, please refer my earlier blog post on this topic
When dealing with people, let us remember we are not dealing with creatures of logic. We are dealing with creatures of emotion, creatures bustling with prejudices and motivated by pride and vanity ~ Dale Carnegie
When I say Emotions, you almost immediately associate ‘Anger’ and ‘Sad’ as the synonyms. Emotion is the mental state and this could be positive or negative.
There are seven major positive emotions : desire, faith, sex, enthusiasm, hope, love, romance. And the seven major negative emotions are : anger, fear, jealousy, hatred, revenge, greed, superstition.
Our brains harbor a lot of emotions and it is the negative emotions that is worrying. The amygdala is most commonly associated with fear and anxiety. Each of us have a chronic or habitual emotional level that determines the overall well-being or satisfaction. If a threat is perceived, the amygdala tends to hijack the reasoned response process. We have certain triggers-things that cause us to have an emotional reaction and elicit our innate ‘fight of flight’ response. This limits our capacity to think clearly and causes us to move to default behaviors that may not be skillful or effective.
Emotional intelligence (EI) is the cognitive ability involving traits and social skills that facilitate interpersonal behavior. The four main components of EI are : Self-Awareness, Self-Management, Social Awareness, Relationship Management.
Our emotional level, thus is the manifested frequency level of everything and anything that is real (perceivable) to us in our world and actual life’s experiences.
Have you wondered as to Why are these negative emotions triggered?
1. Change results in discomfort and stress – a lot of us expect life to be easy and when challenges and hurdles come along, it overwhelms us and may cause negative reactions.
2. Human Being rather than Human Doing - we forget many times that what really matters in each of our lives is what we are, what we build and what we share. Living life with a passion and being your true self is the most important.
3. Relationships – many times we tend to chase people though they may have shown no interest in building and maintaining relationships. In our busy lives we ever so often forget to make time for those who matter the most. We allow our pride and ego to be the mainstay of relationships and taking those, who have been with us through thick and thin, for granted. This leads to disappointments and triggers a lot of negative emotions.
4. Allowing our mind to control us – life is not perfect and sometimes we allow a bad moment, or a bad day to take control of our state of mind and the reactions to other unrelated events of the day.
5. Help – not asking for help when you need it desperately. Each of us need help and cannot survive in isolation.
6. Know when to walk away and when not to give up - many times we hold onto things without asking ourselves the utility value in the same.
7. Surrounding ourselves with people who make us unhappy and drain our energy out – ignore those who hassle you, stalk you, embarrass you and step beyond the boundaries of decent behavior on social media and in real life.
8. Not being accountable & responsible - not walking the talk which leads to distrust and guilt. We loose our identity by not learning to say, ’No’ resulting in over committing and under delivery.
9. Not taking a break- many of us get into the rigmarole of doing too much without pausing. In that we live without enjoying the simple pleasures that life has to offer. We are stressed out, irritable and a vicious circle ensues.
10. Focusing on past – allowing our past to continue to dominate us to such an extent that we become victims of it. We focus on the negatives, loosing ourselves in the problem. More often than not, we repeatedly point to our unhappy circumstances to rationalize our negative feelings. This is the easy way out. It takes, after all, very little effort to feel victimized. But the negative thinking and behavior hurts only one person the most and that is “You”.
So how do we deal with our Emotions especially those that trigger a negative response.
Adaptability is all about recovering from the anxiety & adversity that change initially brings & then having the flexibility to move ahead vigorously.
I find that one way to practice this idea is to write or think about a good experience. Not only does this remind me that there’s life beyond bad feelings, but it also serves as an emotional anchor. I find my memory can become a positive emotional reference point, to remind me of the range of possibilities when I am at my worst feeling down and out.
Refer my post on Twelve Ways to Inspire Yourself When You Are Feeling Down and Out
The role emotions play in shaping thinking accounts for a large part of why we see a failure of good thinking in most leaders. You are free to choose behaviors that are truly in your own best interests.
We all have so much to give. We just need to consciously choose to access and share it. When we give good vibes, good thoughts, and a smile, we generally get it back. Recognizing emotions is the basis of self-knowledge and interaction. An emotion comes up to the conscious level when we are ready to manage it. I like to think emotions as colors, some simple, and yet others are blends.
Emotional memory management enables us to manage our emotions in a way that will produce more positive outcomes. It is the “habits of mind” that reveal intellectual character. Please watch my video on “Emotional Blindspots‘.
The 3 core development steps for all Leaders are: Knowing Yourself, Choosing Yourself and Giving Yourself. What do you think ?