The author hopes to inspire a movement where people demand character-driven leadership because it delivers higher value to all stakeholders.
The traits that deliver value
A leader should stay legal, but beyond that, it's the person who is hard-nosed, doesn't succumb to soft HR practices and ruthlessly controls costs who creates the most value.
The habits of strong character
People demonstrate character through habitual behaviours; they can develop the habits of strong character and 'unlearn' the habits of poor character.
Humility + will
Good leaders build enduring greatness through a paradoxical blend of personal humility and professional will.
Integrity and fairness
Human character encompasses much more than honesty and truthfulness. It is also about loyalty or integrity, of fairness etc.
What character is about
Character is about distinguishing right from wrong, it is about not misleading others, it is about self control, it is about co-operation and forgiveness, it is about compassion.
Promoting maximum good
Finding a balance wherein our behaviours promote the most good for the most people is the ongoing task of all principled people of strong character.
The ROC matrix
Integrity: Telling the truth, acting consistently with principles, values and beliefs. Standing up for what is right, keeping promises.
Forgiveness: Letting go of one's mistakes, letting go of others' mistakes, focusing on what's right vs. what's wrong.
Responsibility: Owning one's personal choices, admitting mistakes and failures. Expressing a concern for the common good.
Compassion: Empathizing with others, empowering others, commitment to others' development.
Virtuous vs. self-focused CEOs
There are virtuoso CEOs and self-focused CEOs. Self-focused CEOs are weak characters who are out to help themselves, no matter what the cost to others.
How the world sees virtuous CEOs
Virtuoso CEOs are skilled business people, their employees see them as individuals of strong character and they select and build a team of strong character.
How the world sees self-focused CEOs
Self-focused CEOs can't be trusted to keep promises, often pass blame to others, frequently punish well-intentioned people for making mistakes, and are poor at caring for people.
Vision and focus
The foundation of a leader's decision making rests on creating a vision for the future, maintaining a strategic focus, and creating a culture of accountability.
Return on character
Character (who the leader is) + Skills (what the leader does) = Results (Return on Character).
The 5 personality dimensions
Human beings are born with five personality dimensions: openness, conscientiousness, extroversion, agreeableness and risk aversion or fear. Think of each of these traits as having a slider which goes from 0 to 100.
John Lennon, the famous Beatle, once said: "Life is what happens to you while you are busy making other plans."
Connect with mentors
Good CEOs always have a connection with influential mentors.
How denial affects you
All human beings have a well-honed skill of denial. The benefit of this is that individuals are optimistic; the downside is that they get blinded and believe their own lies.
Seek objective feedback
The virtuoso CEOs in our study had the ability and the discipline of seeking objective feedback all the time. Leaders who ask for the truth repeatedly are rarely in self denial.
Feedback leads to self awareness
No matter how much reflection we practise, we need to get feedback from other people in order to become truly self aware.
Fear creates rifts
The fear-based approach of self-focused CEOs actually creates a rift and drives us apart.
How to become self-transforming
When we can routinely learn to challenge our own ideas and beliefs, we achieve the highest levels of mental complexity. When we achieve that, we become a self-transforming mind.
Adopt positive beliefs
Virtuoso leaders developed strong character habits and adopted positive beliefs about human nature, organizational life and their own sense of purpose.
What good leaders do
1. They create a vision or a plan
2. Set the strategic focus and key initiatives to achieve them
3. Build a talented team
4. Enforce a culture of accountability.
What poor leaders do
1. They make a decision and seek confirming data
2. Allow short-termism to override long-term decisions
3. Make impulsive decisions
4. Place undue importance on decision and its impact on their career
5. Get unduly influenced by the last person they speak to
6. Rely on their gut rather than collect careful analysis
An ability to communicate
Virtuoso CEOs achieve high ratings in their ability to form and communicate vision and strategy or direction.
A leader's ability to consistently communicate has a bearing on how the organization sees his/her credibility and character.
A culture of accountability
Good CEOs create and maintain a culture of accountability and draw the boundaries of acceptable behaviour.
A disciplined decision making
Leaders with strong character are more likely to be anchored in the kind of disciplined decision making processes that result in clearer organizational vision and a stronger culture of accountability.
Hallmarks of an effective team
The most effective teams share the following: goals, roles, processes, informal interactions.
An empowered team is an engaged team
The people led by a virtuoso CEO have more authority and empowerment to make a difference.
People are fully engaged when they believe that management respects them.
The engagement killers
Workforce engagement killers include unfair hiring, unfair promotion and compensation policies.
A workforce that believes that sycophancy is the best route will never be engaged with company purpose or goals.
A leader's behaviour traits
The keystone leadership behaviour traits include: keeping promises, following through on commitments, owning up to mistakes, forgiving people for mistakes, and treating people as people.
What makes for a productive team
A workforce that feels cared for is more productive than one that is neglected in terms of development, listening, etc.
Changing your character
Changing your character is hard work. It takes a lot of energy and personal resolve. Willpower alone cannot do it.
Why change is tough
Your brain views change as a threat, because your brain thrives on routine.
The change process needs leadership
Leading and guiding an organization through a change process when the future is uncertain needs virtuoso leadership from the leader and the executive team.
Why boards are important
Boards are key to keeping people focused on what matters: vision, strategy, financial performance and people matters.
It's a shared journey
Few leaders understand the shared nature of their voyage. They must realize that their safe passage depends on the safe passage of every member of their team.
President (Corporate Strategy and Business Development)
Aditya Birla Group
Before his current assignment at Aditya Birla Group, Shivakumar was Chairman & CEO at Pepsico India. Prior to that he was Managing Director at Nokia India. Before joining Nokia, he worked with consumer electronics maker Philips and top consumer goods firm Hindustan Unilever. He is an engineer from IIT Chennai and an MBA from IIM Calcutta.