Is Your Character Ready For Power?

Character and power tend to go hand in hand. Abraham Lincoln once said, “Nearly all men can stand the test of adversity, but if you really want to test a man’s character, give him power.”

All too often I’ve watched someone be placed in leadership, and then they become a mean control freak. Or someone who feels the only way to lead, is to knock people down. The worst, is watching them try to destroy people to get what they want. In all cases, I see what Lincoln was talking about.

If power causes you to treat team members like trash, then in my mind, that’s what you character is made from. As a leader, you should be lifting your team up! You should be looking for opportunities to grow them, not knock them down. You should be focusing on how to take your team to the next level, not how to get them out of your way.

I can never say it enough, a leader’s job it to make their people successful, not the other way around! If you can’t see how you’re doing that, then you’re not. If you’ve received your leadership from stepping on people, then that is what you will breed in your team; people who treat people like pavement.

Spend some time today just focusing on what your leadership looks like. Are you the kind of person that people love… or fear? If they love you, they tell you. If they fear you, they appease you. Try and be truthful with yourself about which it actually is. If it’s the later, than you have to realize that you’re hurting your leadership every moment someone on your team is afraid.

Question: When have you seen this type of leadership, and what did it produce? In either leadership of team members?


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27 thoughts on “Is Your Character Ready For Power?”

  1. This type of leading always breeds huge insecurities in other team members.They will all start to bicker and fight internally and then you can be certain that nobody is looking out for the customer.

  2. Great topic Chris! I have always said that God will not promote us beyond our character! To do so would destroy us, just look at some of the lottery winners. A well known author writes that we are promoted to our level of incompetency! Either way it shows that to get to the destiny God has for us we have to continue to grow. That is true in every area of our life, not just spiritual. To think that we have arrived just confirms the pride that everyone else can see! We have to continue to develop our love walk and the by product of this is happier team members!

      1. Incompetency is not a character flaw! You increase your competency by training, studying, mentorship etc. I am a commercial pilot and when we start out on a new aircraft we are not very competent on it but by the time we finish training on it we prove our competency with a flight test. The problem comes when we think more highly of ourselves than we ought and become unteachable! So there is hope for all of us!

  3. “A leaders job is to make their people successful”, it means they need to have a vision that is clearly communicated to the team. I’m currently watching an interesting situation unfold. This leader is very passionate about what he does and what he is about, and has done some neat things for the group, and has also communicated his vision. But the nature of the job is such that 75% of the staff is part-time (a couple hours a week), and they all feel the leader is asking for too much, since this is a job, they do on the side, that doesn’t pay that much. I see the frustration on both sides, where the leader is not happy, and has to constantly prod and push the staff to do the administrative things and the staff is not happy leading to a very high turnover, which means new people all the time. In this case what would you advice?

    1. Hmmmm….not a lot of details to comment on, and I understand why. Whether or not it’s a part-time job, they are getting paid. Therefore, they need to get done what is expected of them. How do you do that? Clearly defined KRA’s. Both sides need to know exactly what is expected and required of the team members. That way everyone knows what winning looks like. If you do this in the time that you’re here, you are doing your job correctly. Make sense?

      1. Makes sense…..thinking some more…could be a question of not having the “right” people or different expectations from both ends. Let me ponder on that a little bit more..

        1. Reminds me of a great book, “Good to Great” Getting the right people on the bus isn’t a problem if everyone knows where its going. Once everyone knows where its going its just a matter of getting them in the right seats.

          Not just how Jim Collins wrote it but it sounds close.

  4. I will remember your thought here, “If they love you, they tell you. If they fear you, they appease you.” I think too much leadership is driven by fear and intimidation. It only motivates people briefly and usually does not have lasting results. It usually produces “yes men” and people driven by fear.

  5. I was just commenting this week about someone I know who received a promotion – but almost immediately after she was placed in this leadership position she began treating the people under her like trash – it was heartbreaking – and you could tell she was NOT ready for that promotion….

  6. I’ve heard it said that crisis doesn’t build character, it only reveals it. And I like the way you’ve applied the same principle here. Character is something you build slowly before you need it.
    It’s worth reflecting on. I think we too often have a high view of ourselves and need to critically examine our true motivations.

    1. “I think we too often have a high view of ourselves and need to critically examine our true motivations.”
      Your comment reminds me of another observation: We judge ourselves by what we’re capable of, while others judge us by what we’ve done.

  7. I loved this post Chris. Only one thought about people being put in leadership. We must all earn the right to lead and a position of authority is mistakenly seen as leadership by way to many.

    That quote for Lincoln is one of my favorite quotes. I believe power doesn’t cause a character flaw it only reveals the character flaw that was already present. So many things are tested by fire and our character is not exempt from testing.

    How do we identify the character flaw before the position is filled? Is it a test of the persons character placing the person in that position with that character flaw? Just a thought or two.

    1. Excellent stuff Chad! Leadership only happens when someone follows you. And I believe great leadership is learned. Someone has to come along side of you, see your flaws, and know how to help you fix them. Later you can begin that same process on your own.
      Thanks for the great comment!

  8. Love or fear? I think in the long run, a great leader will be ‘respected’ more than being liked or feared. As a leader, one may have to take some tough calls. But, the way in which we take such decisions matters a lot.

  9. Curious how you and your readers get your employees to open up to you? I sometimes feel I hit brick walls. Wondering also if this would be something good to get clients to do with me too…I ask lots of questions, but don’t feel I get the feedback until its too late.

    1. I believe the old saying that people don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care. I get people to open up to me by genuinely caring about them. I’m sure everyone else does as well, that’s just what I know works for me.

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