This morning, I had an insightful conversation with a 30-something single mother. She shared with me that she had her son at age 19, did not attend college and she also mentioned that she had lost her job of 10 years after the 2008 mortgage crisis. She now has to take minimum wage jobs just to make ends meet and shared with me her struggles and dreams to provide a better life for her son.
At times during the conversation, she would belittle herself for some of her life decisions such as sleeping with the wrong man at age 19 and she was embarrassed at the fact that she was working at a minimum wage job. Every time she did this, I would tell her that her life struggles and hard work were a much better example for her son than all the wealth in the world. She then secretly shared with me how proud her son was when she finally obtained a job after 2 years of unemployment, applications and interviews
This morning dose of reality and humility made me think about a presentation I gave on leadership to a large organization a few years ago. I started the presentation by comparing the difference between Management and Leadership and stating why most people mistake the two. Next, I explained why leadership was illusive but powerful.
Leadership comes from influence not from a title.
I‘ve worked with many organizations where the key influencers were not the people in charge. Many times in many organizations, there are people making things happen behind the scenes and they hold the admiration and trust of those organizations. These people are the influencers. The next logical question is always: How do you obtain influence?
Influence comes from many traits: authenticity, initiative, selfless service and empathy. Nevertheless, one of the consistent traits I see in influencers is moral authority.
Moral Authority is walking the walk; congruence between words and actions or another way to put it is simply - Character.
There was a time in our history when a handshake was your word and honor and you would defend it to the death, literally. You didn’t need a contract or an attorney as long as someone gave you his or her word. Leaders would resign willingly if their character was ever in question rather than having to be forced out.
The masses will always follow people with character. People naturally and willingly allow themselves to be influenced by those of character and when leaders do not exhibit character, they pay the price, many times with their position, wealth and influence.
If there is one mantra I beat to the ground repeatedly on Legacy Dad and in my teachings, and conferences, it’s for parents to focus on Character above all other areas minus faith.
Often what we label as leadership is an overflow of character and influence.
The single mother I talked with was influencing her son by her character, humility and work ethic. This lesson is more important that any STEM or Magnet School you can buy and the ripples of this influence will echo throughout your children’s lives.
I don’t care what your education level is, how much money you make, or how successful you are. If you lack character, ultimately you will fall and learn a painful life lesson in the process. Politicians, Celebrities, and Leaders in Business often endure this fall while the whole world watches.
Studies by Dr. Thomas Stanley on the personality traits of the most successful people in their perspective fields: Doctors, Lawyers, Salespeople, Engineers, Scientists, CEO’s, etc. all unanimously said that Character was the #1 trait that made them who they are.
According to these leaders, the college they went to, grades they received or socio-economic advantages in their lives had little effect on their overall success. In fact, these areas did not even make the top 10 list. So I always preach to parents, focus on character and everything else will fall into place.
Influence or Character cannot be bought with a title, wealth or education. It is honed by practicing what we preach on a consistent, daily basis and our kids are watching and learning from us every single day. If you ever meet me in person, there is one thing you’ll realize quickly – my writings on this blog are my word and my real life. My friends, family and even my pastors read these entries. To one extent, it’s a great form of accountability.
So now that I’ve etched a framework for you, the next few posts are going to focus on how we build character, not only in ourselves but in our children on a daily and consistent basis.