How To Spot Leadership Character With 10 Easy Signs

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To build a team on talent, just look at their resumes. But to build a team on character, listen to their words.

Finding leaders for your team who exhibit the highest standards of character is the ballgame when it comes to building a world-class team.

The question is, how do you find these people?

I once was considering two finalists for a position on a team, and on paper they were “neck and neck” in terms of accomplishments. Each candidate knew the other person, and each knew they were the finalists. I asked each of them a final question; “How should I make my decision?”

The first person simply said, “Go with me. I’ll take this team to the next level.” The second person said, “Wow, this is a tough decision. Either one of us could do a good job.”

I went with the second person. Her character simply shone through in her words.

You don’t begin by looking at the person’s skills or even their record of achieving results. Even the most unscrupulous person can deliver results.

So if discerning character is so important, how do you tell if you’re dealing with someone of strong character?

The place to begin is with the first words out of their mouth.

Listen for these 10 indicators of strong character. Chances are, if you’re seeing these patterns in their conversation you may well be dealing with the kind of person you want on your team.

  1. They receive a compliment with grace.

  2. They receive negative feedback with humility and non-defensiveness.

  3. They give voice to disagreement while still extending respect.

  4. They give thoughtful answers, not off-the-cuff reactions.

  5. They might criticize the merits of an idea, but not the person bringing the idea to the table.

  6. Their apologies are unreserved; they don’t say, “I’m sorry, but” or “I’m sorry if…”

  7. If they don’t know the answer to a question, they say so; they don’t bluff their way through.

  8. They never humble-brag.

  9. Their conversation includes plenty of “pleases” and “thank you’s”.

  10. Their words shine the spotlight on others.

So by all means, look at their accomplishments. But before they earn a seat at your team’s table, listen to how they talk.

Because the words you hear and how they express them will tell you more about their character than will ever show up on a resume.

the author

Scott Cochrane

Lifelong learner, practitioner and coach of leadership, across more than 50 countries. Follower of Jesus, husband of Nora, grateful parent and grandparent.

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