In 2005, Laura Reave reviewed over 150 studies on leadership effectiveness. A focus was on “spiritual values” and the overlap between religion and business. But, the “spiritual values” noted are universal and do not require a specific religion to teach or instill.
Based on the studies, Reave noted that “leadership success begins with personal integrity, which is then reflected in ethical behavior.”
A leader might use the latest practical guidance for responding to particular situations, but “studies show that followers tend to look first at who a leader is.” “Character and behavior must be integrated, or the leader loses authenticity. Leadership based on strategy and image management can be hollow.”
Leaders may become so wrapped up in crafting an image of themselves or so narcissistic and ego-driven that their “personal identity and convictions may be lost.” “If the approval of followers is the goal, the inner moral compass is undermined.” “They may become actors seeking the next round of applause.”
So, those “old-fashioned” values that include personal integrity, trustworthiness, ethical behavior, showing respect for others, honesty, and humility are very important. For example, studies show that “a high degree of humility is far more evident among exceptional leaders than is raw ambition.” “The presence of a gargantuan ego” contributes to failure or continued mediocrity. “Humble leaders do not seek to develop a personality cult with public attention and devoted followers”, instead they direct people’s attention to shared goals and values.
So, what should we take away from this?
In our era of social media and partisan political divide, there are many “shouters.” Through tweets, posts, speeches, and proclamations some politicians, entertainers, celebrities, radio, TV, and social media personalities, and a host of wannabes throw out provocative words and images to rile up, divide, confuse, condemn, obfuscate, mislead, harm, etc. others–often those in a weaker position and who don’t have the capability and/or platform to defend themselves. The people who do this may appear to be leaders, they may appear to have adoring followers … what they actually have are large egos and the ultimate aim is their own benefit.
An effective leader does not put himself or herself on a pedestal before which all must bow. An effective leader has integrity, is trustworthy, shows respect, and is honest and humble. An effective leader shows depth in a shallow world.
(Kevin Engel, 16 March 2019)