Leadership Lessons: How to Understand the Relationship between Character and Values
Author: John Mattone
Values define interests that define attitudes that lead to acts.
“Character, in the long run, is the decisive factor in the life of an individual and of nations alike.” – Theodore Roosevelt.
Values represent the outward manifestation of character. Our values are perceivable for others, and through them so is our character.
In my book ‘Intelligent Leadership’, I’ve drawn up an analogy that I think superbly depicts the interconnectedness of values and character.
I stated that the two are like an iceberg. The larger chunk, invisible beneath the water, represents your character. The smaller tip, protruding from among the waves, represents your values.
What does this mean for a leader? How can those in leadership positions harness the power of character and values?
- Through the shaping of your character, you can achieve leadership maturity.
- Values and character define your personality and leadership style.
- By understanding your character and values, you also understand why you act and behave as you do.
- Understanding your character helps you break down the complex web of emotional states that influences your decisions.
Achieving Leadership Maturity
Values determine your interests. If you place value on something, you are interested in it. If you are interested in something, you take pleasure in learning about it and discussing it. Your attitude towards your interests is favorable. This favorable attitude eventually drives you to act in a way that allows you to derive some sort of gratification from your object of interest.
To achieve leadership maturity, you need to recognize the existence of two types of values.
- Immediate values, like financial gains, are easier to pinpoint, but they are also more superficial.
- Ultimate values, like the desire for freedom, security, and independence, define your ultimate desires that likely guide your actions throughout your life.
Ultimate values define your mission in life.
A mature leader:
- Understands the differences between immediate- and ultimate values.
- Knows whether his/her values align with his/her character elements.
- Has a thorough understanding of his/her hierarchy of values.
- Knows that ultimate values that align with his/her character elements are the most important. He/she then sets goals based on such values.
Values and Character Define Leadership Style
Knowing and understanding your character helps you position yourself on the Leadership Maturity Map I have defined in ‘Intelligent Leadership’. According to this map, you fall into one of nine leadership style categories:
Each of these categories comprises three sub-categories, based on maturity level:
Once you know to which of these categories you belong, you can focus on setting your goals, leveraging your strengths, and correcting your weaknesses. Your objective may be to achieve maturity within your own leadership style category but you can also change your style. In my book, I detail the typical strengths and weaknesses of every one of the leadership style sub-categories. My map provides clear paths of logical improvement for leaders of various predominant styles.
A mature perfectionist should aim to assimilate the traits of a mature activist. His/her growth should not stop there. He/she should then attempt to assume the traits and behaviors of a mature thinker.
I also outline pitfalls and evolutionary paths leaders focused on continuous improvement should avoid.
Once you understand the character-linked minutiae of your own decision making, you gain the ability to optimize your decisions and overall leadership style.