Character-Based Leadership and Making the Most of Your Human Resources

Tuesday, October 30th, 2012

mrys-book-cover1Character-Based Leadership and Making the Most of Your Human Resources

Mary Schaefer wrote a portion of the book, The Character Based Leader. I liked the short article she sent me and thought you might enjoy it as well. – Rick

Several years ago I sat in a conference room listening to a presentation made by an HR rep on employee survey results within his corporation. The presenter introduced programs for first- and second-level managers to improve the work environment. I asked him what the VP of HR was doing in response to the survey. He said the VP would be holding the first- and second-level managers accountable. I pressed for what the VP specifically would be doing differently to improve the work environment, apart from championing a program. People around the table were perplexed at my question.

At this corporation, like many others, decisions had been made to downsize a number of times. Studies have shown that decisions to downsize are now made often not to save a company from annihilation, but to minimize hits to profits.

As an HR manager I watched the painful fallout from these repeated decisions impact the managers making selections as to who would stay and who would go, and those charged with delivering the news not to mention the impact on the employees whose jobs were at stake, those selected to stay and those selected to leave, and all of those who were involuntary witnesses.

I continue to be struck by leaders who repeatedly make decisions that put people’s lives in a spin – people they will never look in the eye – and at the same time, look at employee survey results, for instance, and expect a program to fix things.

This is our area of opportunity. Rather than keep rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic with new and different programs that other people are responsible for implementing, corporate leaders and HR need only look in the mirror. Reflected there is the key to better capitalizing on the creativity and potential of their human resources.

Leaders need to be ready to be role models when change is expected of everyone else in order to demonstrate how they are part of the whole, and not above it.
I recently had the privilege of co-authoring a book about character-based leadership. I’m talking about the type of leadership that comes from choice and personal values as opposed to the authority rendered by a title.

Foundationally, this is what is required: Leaders rising to the occasion to assess their own behavior for alignment with what makes humans thrive, and holding themselves accountable. It’s a commitment to taking responsibility to honor each other’s worth in every aspect of work interactions.

It’s not an easy road. It takes the weight of character. Leaders are not paid for this per se, but there is a payoff. I hope more leaders realize this opportunity and are willing to put in their own personal work to see this vision in action. Only then will the true power of any organization’s human resources be realized.

Mary C Schaefer is one of twenty-one co-authors of the book, The Character-Based Leader: Instigating a Leadership Revolution… One Person at a Time, published by the Lead Change Group, a virtual community. Mary speaks, coaches, trains and consults on creating employee-manager communications breakthroughs and positive, functional work cultures.