By the picture above, I am sure we can see that leadership is a delicate balance of many things. I am focusing on character and competence mainly because I feel they incorporate most of the traits of leadership overall. We all have have strengths, we all have weaknesses, we all have goals and we all are going to run into obstacles along the way.
What I just described is the SWOT Analysis. Credited to Albert Humphrey, this system is used worldwide in many organizations for projects, places and people to analyze Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. One website I often go to for invaluable tools and information on leadership and strategic thinking, and other things along those lines, is MindTools. You can check out their article on the SWOT Analysis here. The analysis is great at identifying your values, your abilities and helping you to establish goals and ideas toward reaching them, keeping the inevitable hurdles in mind.
What is ‘character’? What is ‘competence’? Why does it matter? Well, if there is either no character or competence, I believe you don’t have a great leader. Anyone can be in a leadership role and act as a leader, but without the traits needed to balance the scales, said leader will fail.
Character, to me, is an intangible. It is what shows as a trustworthy, loyal or honest person; someone with the moral integrity that is the foundation for some key values found in leaders such as courage, honor, patience and resilience. Character leaves a legacy, or precedes a person’s entrance. Character can draw people in, or push them away. Character, in my opinion, is one of the most important factors in deciding great vs. average vs. poor leaders. Strong character equals strong leader, and vice versa. SWOT will give you an idea as to where you stand character wise, and leave room for you to explore improvements. This wanting to improve is a character trait. Taking on tasks and not being afraid to fail, but willing to learn from an experience and grow, is character working alongside competence building.
Competence comes from experience. After experiencing events, and then evaluating them (I feel a very important and too often overlooked aspect to ‘experience’), people will gain a very important level of competence that will balance and complement the character side of the equation. Having a strong moral compass, and being honorable and trustworthy are great, but to be truly effective there has to be the ability to complete a task or mission with effectiveness and solid, positive results. SWOT will provide you an opportunity to reach out for new experiences that will help build competence. By predicting threats and creating solutions you will build both competence through evaluated experience, and in turn strengthen your character.
It sounds so easy to do when reading or writing about this. But I definitely know that in actual practice, it is not as easy as it sounds. There are so many factors that we don’t even consider when going through our lives and careers that we can easily get overwhelmed and just end up settling. But, then, that is what character is all about.