To become a great leader you first need to strengthen your character

Character not circumstance makes the person. (Booker T. Washington)

Silence filled the air as the last few people streamed into the conference room, with their footsteps making different sounds. Tap-tip-tap-tip.  Within a few seconds, everyone had settled down, and the moment I—okay, most of us had been waiting for arrived, when the speaker of the day was introduced.  The speaker was the President of an international organization, whom I admire a lot because of his achievements in the energy sector in sub-Saharan Africa, and I knew that I would learn a lot from his presentation, on what has made him excel in his line of business.

“To become a great leader, you first need to strengthen your character,” the presenter said as he wound up his presentation, forty minutes later.  During the presentation, I learned that character is what guides a person’s actions, and produces the words spoken.  Character is also what a person does when nobody is watching him or her.  So how do you strengthen your character?

Be a role model to yourself and to others.  This simply means that you need to have a clear image of seeing yourself the way you want others to see you.  The easiest way to begin, according to the speaker, is by listing down ten qualities of the people you ‘greatly’ admire—only ten to start with—then try to emulate them.  It may not be easy to change from your old ways of doing things to new ones, but the effort is worth it, and after sometime, you will have acquired new skills that will propel you towards the direction you want to take in life.

Make it a habit to improve your skills.  Personal development is a lifelong activity.  This can be done in many ways, but first, you need to identify the areas you feel that you are lagging behind.  Once you do this, you can enroll for seminars and short courses.  You can also buy books in the topic area that you are interested in.  Other ways of improving your skills include treating criticisms as constructive feedback to improve yourself, and learning from your mistakes.

Have effective communication skills.  When communicating, always remember that it is not about what you say, but what you want people to understand.  This means that, you should speak slowly and clearly, because the faster you speak the less people will understand.  And whenever there is a misunderstanding, discuss the matter—and do not argue.  Doing this will show that you have respect for others, which will create a great rapport, and you will end up having a good passage for exchanging views and information.

Do what you say you will do and say what you will do.  You need to always be alert of what is happening around you, so that you can react and respond in the right ways, by giving constructive feedback to people who depend on you for direction and guidance.  The speaker said that he develops good rapport with his staff by talking to them one-on-one.  This simple action demonstrates to his staff that he respects their feedback and opinion, and in the long run, makes him more influential, because people like to follow a leader who knows what is going on—and where he is going.