How character is a key to success

By Laura Raines, for ajcjobs

A sour economy, high unemployment, dwindling investments, restructuring corporations and shifting industries — we’re living in a period of great transition.

The upside to transition is that it is a great accelerator of everyone’s development, say Bob and Lyn Turknett, principals of Turknett Leadership Group, a character and leadership development consulting firm in Atlanta.

“A lot of character growth comes in bad times, and character is the foundation of leadership,” said Bob Turknett, CEO. “People can either be defeated by challenges and adversity, or they can be revitalized into new initiatives and drive.”

He sees this “shaken-up” workplace as an opportunity for individuals and a spawning ground for new leaders.

Lyn and Bob Turknett

Lyn and Bob Turknett are co-founders of the Turknett Leadership Group, a leadership and organization development company since 1980 located in Tucker. Leita Cowart, for the AJC

“So many workers and jobseekers are looking for a competitive edge in this marketplace,” he said. “Developing your character is the edge. It is the critical hiring issue.”

“We consult with so many executives who say that they want the right credentials, training and degree in a new hire, but that’s not the critical issue. They tell us they ‘hire for attitude,’ which is another way of saying that they hire for character.”

Added Lyn Turknett, the firm’s president: “If they can find someone with integrity and initiative, someone who takes personal responsibility for his actions and respects others, they can train them for the rest of the job. Focusing on your character can make a huge difference in your personal and career success.”

Midlife workers, Lyn Turknett said, often have the misconception that “they are who they are — their character is formed.”

“They confuse personality, which may be formed by a person’s teens, with character, which is something you can work on for the rest of your life,” she said.

Character development is not an option for leaders, they believe. According to the research of Robert Kegan, there are five levels of leadership development. People move from thinking the world revolves around them in adolescence to adopting behaviors and values based on their relationships and roles. At Level 3, we’re motivated by pleasing others, Bob Turknett said. When people begin to develop their own value system based on doing what is right, live by it and model it for others, they are moving into Level 4. Level 5 leaders are honest, trustworthy, humble, open to learning and think globally, wanting to help humankind.

“Research shows that the most successful organizations and companies have leaders who are operating at the 4 or 5 leadership levels,” he said.

After years of research and coaching executives, the Turknetts have identified integrity, respect and responsibility as the core qualities of leadership character. Their Leadership Character Model can be pictured as a scale. Integrity is the base, with respect and responsibility balanced on either side. Clients can enhance their character and leadership abilities by working on the qualities of empathy, lack of blame, emotional mastery and humility on the respect side of the scale; and the qualities of self-confidence, accountability, courage and focusing on the whole on the responsibility side.

“Character issues, such as excessive emotionality [not controlling your anger or anxiety], gossip [not treating people with respect] or blaming other people often derail careers,” Lyn Turknett said. Conversely, learning to weigh others’ viewpoints, accepting responsibility for your actions and gaining self-confidence can affect positive changes in your work and life.

“We had a client who had been expecting a promotion and was instead demoted to the poorest-performing division of the company. He thought he might quit but instead decided to apply his skills to the new opportunity. He thoroughly trained his replacement, then took his new division from worst to first and was doubly promoted the next year,” Lyn Turknett said. “Clearly, we have the power to make changes.”

Individuals can work on character development by taking free assessments online to learn more about their strengths and weaknesses; finding a trusted mentor or professional coach; or by reading books on the subject.

One comment Add your comment,

July 12th, 2009
12:33 pm

This is an important quality! And is something you have and strive for. Think Gabriella & Theo should read