Character in leadership is defined by key qualities: patience, kindness and generosity.

In my keynote speeches, I make a point that mastery in your Job At The Top rests on two obsessions. One is focused thinking. About the whole of your business. The other is conscious attention to character.

Most people get the thinking part. But character? That’s personal … part of who we all are. And we’re all different. So I never am surprised with the “Thanks for the thinking part, but just leave the character part to me” look.

But sorry. If that’s your reaction, it may be time to step aside. Or to continue reading. With an open mind.

Because your character … how you are seen by others … is the most powerful force you have for driving commitment to help you. To propel your ship on the course you’ve set. With zealot followers at the oars. Because the fuel rods for the nuclear reaction businesses … are zealot followers.

So, here’s a gut check …. are your employees zealot followers?

• Are they continuously thinking about how to make your company better while at work?
• Do they stay late, come in early, or on weekends experiment with ways to improve?
• Do you receive at least two constructive ideas a day?
Great company CEOs answer those questions with yes. But there’re far too few of them. The difference? It’s character … yours!

For the rest of this article I’ll outline three of nine character traits that may surprise you. But they all work. These first three address the general attitude you need to bring to your job. In following installments, we’ll cover the other six that deal with how you think about your own role and how you deal with others.


Aren’t we supposed to be the most impatient person in our business? Always pushing for more … better … faster? My counterpoint here is, Go Slow to Go Fast.

Nothing demotivates smart people more than being told what to do without understanding why, and without leeway to think about how to do it. The days of “do it now or else” are over.

Try outlining the outcome you are looking for to your team. Explain your own ideas for why it’s important. How to get there and the constraints you see. Then ask them to think about it, to come back to you with their thoughts and, together, decide what to do.


Aren’t we supposed to be the emotionally inert, the rock of duty for our troops? Whom everyone fears and admires? If that’s your mode, you already know the results. Less than what you’d hope they’d be.

Try opening up and softening up. It’s no more difficult to be kind and equally respected. And what will you be gaining by opening up? No one wants to give anything less than their all to someone who’s continually kind to them.


Aren’t we supposed to be the greatest skeptic … the one who makes sure people earn their jobs? And that we don’t overpay? Yes, that’s a part of our responsibility. But the power punch of generosity isn’t about jobs or pay. It’s about generosity of spirit.

It means expecting people to amaze you. Not to disappoint. Because what you expect is usually what you get. Your willingness to let others know that you believe in them, and are depending on them, is their highest motivator. And when, on occasion, they fall short, take the blame yourself. If the shortfalls become egregious enough or habitual, then simply terminate the individual and start encouraging the replacement.

Patience, kindness and generosity. Approach your work with these ideals in mind. Start living them consciously. Continuously. And you’ll be amazed at the reactions.