The rhetoric all confirms that to lead we must be humble, honest, empathetic, high integrity leaders.

I agree with this wholeheartedly. There are many ways to describe these characteristics. Personally, I call these the intangibles of great leadership.

One of the often quoted lines about leadership is “Leaders do the right thing even when no one is looking.” This is true, but could it be argued that with great character there are great consequences?

The great leadership traits have risks. And while I expect to see all of these traits from anyone whom I follow, it begs the question, is there any downside to leading with character?

    Risks of Humility

  • If I am humble… will this be mistaken for a lack of confidence?
  • If I am humble… will people not believe I have accomplished much?
  • If I am humble… will I not Stand Out?
  • Risks of Honesty

  • If I am honest… will I miss a shortcut?
  • If I am honest… will others want to hear the truth?
  • If I am honest… may others lie and get ahead?
  • Risks of Empathy

  • If I show empathy… will others try and walk all over me
  • If I show empathy… will it be mistaken for sympathy?
  • If I show empathy… will I be perceived as indecisive?
  • Risks of Integrity

  • If I have high integrity… will the “less” moral pass me by?
  • If I have high integrity… will doing the right thing cost me in the short run?
  • If I have high integrity… will it go unnoticed in an oft amoral society?

What are your answers?

It is easy to say that none of these things have risk and that you will surely be noticed/respected/liked/appreciated/etc for having these great character traits. However, it is inevitable that at some point we may miss a short term victory while following what is right versus what is right now.

The perception of integrity is something that can take a long time to build and can be lost in an instant. Meaning that we must at times forego the short term success if it will cost us morally in some way.

When all is said and done, I believe in the long run the high character leader wins every time. However, as we work to become the most honest, humble, empathetic, high integrity leaders we can be we must know that patience and virtue sometimes has to supersede what we want “NOW”

“Now” may cost us too much later and it is therefore that we must decide…

As a leader it is our responsibility to recognize the risk(s) of doing the right thing. Then… we must do it anyway!