The English word character comes from a Latin word meaning “mark”, or “distinctive quality.” As you have seen, our character is what marks, defines, and identifies us. And you may have been asking yourself, “what distinctive qualities identify me? Are they positive or negative? Genuine character includes the following features: It is fixed, predictable and stable.
I presume that you are familiar with the saying, “Every man has his price.” This saying is very popular and fashionable in a nation as Nigeria. And it implies that every person has a point at which he will compromise his moral standards to gain something else that is a higher priority to him. Some of the usual candidates are money, fame and power. But if we want to become leaders of character, we have to stop accepting this notion—right now. There is no “price” for a leader of character that will cause him to compromise his standards, because his principles are his life. All leaders of character are therefore “set in their ways,” ethically speaking. When your character is set as either a leader or would be leader, you will not compromise because of anything as an effect of your convictions. Nigeria does not lack men and women of knowledge, what we do have in short supply are men and women of character.
Late Myles Munroe told a story about some cement workers who forgot to keep the drum of their large cement mixed rotating. By the time they realized their error, the cement in the drum had completely dried, and they knew there was nothing they could do to salvage it. The cement was now set and unchangeable. Those workers had to spend hours using sledge hammers to remove all the dried cement from the drum, so it could be used again.
The best time to form people’s character is during their formative years. Once we do not do it at this stage, we shall spend many years “using sledge hammer to remove all the dried cement from the drum, so it could be used again.” In the Western world, they have correctional facilities where this is done.
You do not prepare for the corridors of power when you are already there, you are to prepare for it long before you get there. Today, there are too many accidental leaders in Nigeria and on this continent. They are not leaders, but they are in leadership. They are bankrupt in character because they have no convictions. It is not that their values are still malleable, the problem is that they are of no values! The truth is, until we get it right in leadership, we are going nowhere as a nation. Remember, when it comes to nation building, leadership is everything!
Also, character is predictable and for a leader to be predictable, it means that he is consistently responsible and trustworthy. A leader of character can be relied on because he is not one thing one day and another thing next. The question is, would you say that your conduct is predictable or unpredictable? Do your family members and coworkers tiptoe when they see you because they do not know how you will react to them on a given day? Do they have to warn others, ‘Watch out—he’s in a bad mood today’? When we demonstrate that we are reliable, we give other people a sense of security and well-being. We must become reliable in leadership, if we are going to change this nation and the entire continent of Africa. This is non-negotiable.
As I begin to coast home today, it is said that a principled leader is predictable to the point that his character speaks for him in his absence. That is to say, people know him so well that they could vouch for what he would or would not do in a given situation—and be totally accurate. Consequently, in order to gauge how strong your character is, you might ask several people you trust to give you an honest assessment of what they think your conduct would be under various scenarios. Use that information to help you form and strengthen your character. Please put into practice what I am sharing with you at the moment. It is going to change your life and leadership forever.
For the umpteenth time, the best time to build and strengthen your character is right now that you are not known yet. If you do not do it now, it shall be too late for you to do it when you become known. It is not when you become a leader that you’d form your character, the right time to do it is before you become a leader.
A principled leader does not change his values and principles, no matter the external circumstances. He is able to weather all kinds of personal and professional storms while remaining calm and steadfast. Ask yourself these questions: Am I consistent, no matter where I am, what I am doing, and what time of day it is? What do I do when people gossip about me, criticise me, attack my motivations, insult me, or even swear at me? Do I become a different person, losing my temper and lashing back? Am I really the person I project to others?
Lastly, buddy, leaders of solid-character are emerging in Nigeria and Africa as a whole, make sure you are not left behind. In the days to come in Nigeria, it shall be impossible for you to become a leader, on the condition that you are bankrupt in character. This is the future and the best time to buy into it is right now!
See you where great people are found!