In our series, Raising Up Leaders, we have discussed that 51%+ percent of any great leader’s job is to develop new leaders. This process of raising up leaders is VITAL to any organization’s long-term success.

Let’s dive deeper into what you should be focusing on when selecting WHICH future leaders to invest your valuable time and energy on.

First, a question to ask:
Which of these is the MOST important quality for a future leader to possess?

1) Charisma

2) Character

3) Competence

If you answered character, you are correct.


Character is the bedrock foundation upon which all great leaders build. While the potential leader will by no means be flawless, character is the #1 determinant of a truly great leader.

1. Character is forged over a lifetime.

A person does not wake up one morning with strong character. It is birthed in childhood, shaped by life and practiced over time in the crucible of life.

Theologian N.T. Wright writes:

“Virtue, in this strict sense, is what happens when someone has made a thousand small choices, requiring effort and concentration, to do something which is good and right but which doesn’t “come naturally”—and then, on the thousand and first time, when it really matters, they find that they do what’s required “automatically,” as we say.”

2. Character is a through and through quality.

Character is more than acting in a certain way. That is an expression of character, but it is not the core of character. The qualities that build character are not merely surface presentations.

Character is built at the heart level. Someone with true character does the right thing, even when no one else is looking.

There is an English candymaker whose candy is unique. An ordinary piece of candy doesn’t have writing or a brand stamp that is prevalent through the entire piece of candy. That ordinary piece of candy in your mouth becomes unbranded the moment you begin eating it for a bit. Not the case with Brighton candy. This famous British seaside candy maker creates their candy with the Brighton stamp still visible even after the candy is almost entirely eaten. Such is the same with character. It either goes all the way through an individual or not at all.

3. Character is composed of many qualities.

I recently came across this list of 100 character qualities. Take a moment to reflect on these qualities. To help you determine a potential leader’s character, view real-life situations or create some hypothetical situations and see what type of character traits the potential leader exhibits in his or her responses.

·  Alertness – Being aware of what is taking place around me so I can have the right responses.

·  Attentiveness – Showing the worth of a person or task by giving my undivided concentration.

·  Availability – Making my own schedule and priorities secondary to the wishes of those I serve.

·  Benevolence – Giving to other’s basic needs without having as my motive personal reward.

·  Boldness – Confidence that what I have to say or do is true, right, and just.

·  Cautiousness – Knowing how important right timing is in accomplishing right actions.

·  Compassion – Investing whatever is necessary to heal the hurts of others.

·  Contentment – Realizing that true happiness does not depend on material conditions.

·  Creativity – Approaching a need, a task, or an idea from a new perspective.

·  Decisiveness – The ability to recognize key factors and finalize difficult decisions.

·  Deference – Limiting my freedom so I do not offend the tastes of those around me.

·  Dependability – Fulfilling what I consented to do, even if it means unexpected sacrifice.

·  Determination – Purposing to accomplish right goals at the right time, regardless of the opposition.

·  Diligence – Investing my time and energy to complete each task assigned to me.

·  Discernment – Understanding the deeper reasons why things happen.

·  Discretion – Recognizing and avoiding words, actions, and attitudes that could bring undesirable consequences.

·  Endurance – The inward strength to withstand stress and do my best.

·  Enthusiasm – Expressing joy in each task as I give it my best effort.

·  Faith – Confidence that actions rooted in good character will yield the best outcome, even when I cannot see how.

·  Flexibility – Willingness to change plans or ideas according to the direction of my authorities.

·  Forgiveness – Clearing the record of those who have wronged me and not holding a grudge.

·  Generosity – Carefully managing my resources so I can freely give to those in need.

·  Gentleness – Showing consideration and personal concern for others.

·  Gratefulness – Letting others know by my words and actions how they have benefited my life.

·  Honor – Respecting those in leadership because of the higher authorities they represent.

·  Hospitality – Cheerfully sharing food, shelter, or conversation to benefit others.

·  Humility – Acknowledging that achievement results from the investment of others in my life.

·  Initiative – Recognizing and doing what needs to be done before I am asked to do it.

·  Joyfulness – Maintaining a good attitude, even when faced with unpleasant conditions.

·  Justice – Taking personal responsibility to uphold what is pure, right, and true.

·  Loyalty – Using difficult times to demonstrate my commitment to those I serve.

·  Meekness – Yielding my personal rights and expectations with a desire to serve.

·  Obedience – Quickly and cheerfully carrying out the direction of those who are responsible for me.

·  Orderliness – Arranging myself and my surroundings to achieve greater efficiency.

·  Patience – Accepting a difficult situation without giving a deadline to remove it.

·  Persuasiveness – Guiding vital truths around another’s mental roadblocks.

·  Punctuality – Showing esteem for others by doing the right thing at the right time.

·  Resourcefulness – Finding practical uses for that which others would overlook or discard.

·  Responsibility – Knowing and doing what is expected of me.

·  Security – Structuring my life around that which cannot be destroyed or taken away.

·  Self-Control – Rejecting wrong desires and doing what is right.

·  Sensitivity – Perceiving the true attitudes and emotions of those around me.

·  Sincerity – Eagerness to do what is right with transparent motives.

·  Thoroughness – Knowing what factors will diminish the effectiveness of my work or words if neglected.

·  Thriftiness – Allowing myself and others to spend only what is necessary.

·  Tolerance – Realizing that everyone is at varying levels of character development.

·  Truthfulness – Earning future trust by accurately reporting past facts.

·  Virtue – The moral excellence evident in my life as I consistently do what is right.

·  Wisdom – Seeing and responding to life situations from a perspective that transcends my current circumstances.

The Keller Influence Indicator provides a measure of self-assessed character.  I have often said, of the Seven Influence Traits® measured, TRUSTWORTHINESS is the bedrock trait. Why? Because telling the truth regardless of the consequence is foundational to ALL human relationships. If trust is broken, having volumes of charisma or confidence accomplishes nothing.

You are charged with raising up leaders. Start by assessing character. If character is lacking, approach with caution knowing this potential leader is going to take a LONG time to develop because character is built over a lifetime. If you see a lack of character, this might not be the potential leader in which to invest your valuable time and energy. Changing character after it has been entrenched is extremely difficult to do without a radical event or experience to shake a person to their core. In attempting to change character, you will be required to UNDO years of negative practice.

However, if you find a potential leader with strong character, and he or she merely lacks competence, this is a MUCH easier fix. Charisma is a moderately challenging growth point, but still FAR easier than repairing poor character.

Give the Keller Influence Indicator® to potential leaders and discover where they need to grow in terms of character, charisma and competence as they seek to influence others.  A sample KII® report is available here. A complimentary trial version of the KII® is available to you and your team.

In the next article in this series on Raising Up Leaders, we’ll continue to look at how competence and charisma add to the foundation of character.


Search form

From regional manager to international executive with quadruple the pay, Karen Keller’s unique blueprint carefully outlined the step-by-step process for creating high-impact influence and let me know when I was being influenced in a way that didn’t serve me.
Lloyd Moore
Global Director Supplier Quality & Development - Lear Corporation – South Carolina