I love to water-ski! However, each summer I dread the first time out because I know I’ll use muscles I forgot I had and will endure days of pain for my seven minutes of fun. Do I stop because it hurts? No, because I also know that those obscure muscles, if used, will soon be strengthened, and the pain will be replaced by being able to go faster, grab another buoy and have a blast on the water!
Right now you are undoubtedly facing one or more trials. The fight you had with your spouse, your aimless teenager, that dishonest employee, second-quarter financials, disgruntled shareholders – or perhaps all of the above: How you react and act to them is the measuring rod of where you truly stand in regard to your character.
Remember, “Character may be manifested in great moments, but it is made in small ones” (Phillip Brooks).
Okay, you probably realize that. But are you truly aware of whether or not you shortcut the amazing opportunities your trials are offering you? Do you shortcut your character development because it is too painful? Challenge yourself here, because in leadership, character is everything.
As Gen H. Norman Schwarzkopf said, “Leadership is a combination of strategy and character. If you must be without one, be without the strategy”.
So ask yourself, do you run away and work more hours or do you resolve the conflict at home? Do you buy your way out of guilt with gifts or actually resolve the problem with words? Do you have that difficult conversation with your worker, or do you hand it off to your direct report?
Character is gained during trials. Identifying areas of weakness is painful, but you have a choice to open your eyes, face the truth, realize you are not perfect, and become a better person. Or you can continue to avoid pain and live your guarded (and inevitably self-centered) life.
Enlarge your character by improving your weak side, and don’t worry – after a few falls – you’ll nail it. The reward will include the honor of being the person you have always greatly admired.