Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Character and Leadership

Whoever said "Character is destiny" had it dead right. People's personalities start to form and make themselves known early: a whiny child will often become a whiny adult; an adventurous child will often end up doing extreme sports later in life. So, too, I know that some behaviors I exhibited in elementary school have not left. Some have, which I'd like to consider "growth," but others have begun to harden and are unlikely to change no matter what classes I take or how many church services I attend.

This has come home to me more and more recently, as I've been leading HAL5's bid to get the NSS Board meeting here in Huntsville, on the way toward bidding on the 2011 ISDC. Slight quirks of behavior that create minor inconveniences when they affect my own work alone can be multiplied when exhibited in a group. I'll start with my strengths because I could use the boost and because I'll spend quite enough time on my weaknesses eventually.


  • Confidence. I have enough strength of character to feel that I can or should be in charge. This confidence also helps me represent the group. I'm relatively fearless (so I'm told) when it comes to speaking in front of groups or introducing myself for networking purposes. Good. We'll need that.
  • Positive attitude: This is something that's relatively new. I still have my moments of pessimism (see below), but my default position is not a Charlie Brownish defeatism.
  • Intelligence: Not to brag overmuch, but I've got a good memory and a good capacity for planning, strategic, and creative thought. Again, good things to have.
  • Humility: I'm willing to admit when I'm wrong and will readily apologize for flashes of temper, sometimes even before someone else has taken offense.
  • Experience: I've had a variety of experiences in the activities needed to put a convention together, including leading large and small groups, working in conventions and hotels at Disney, and attending good and bad conferences often enough to know what I want or don't want.
  • Competence: I do my jobs well because I take them seriously and have a strong desire for, if not perfection, at least high quality.


  • Stress: It has been brought to my attention more than once that I don't hide my feelings well. When I'm not particularly happy, my face follows suit. I lose my happy-go-lucky attitude and get snarky. Not nasty, necessarily, just cranky. The side effect of getting stressed is that it interferes with my logic and ability to plan or maintain my positive attitude.
  • Opinionated/Tactless: I often have strong opinions about things, usually backed up by facts or reasonable-sounding arguments. That doesn't mean they're right all the time, of course, and sometimes, when irritated, I will make some sort of smart-@$$ comment that hurts feelings or insults others. I usually do this in "off-duty" mode, when I think I'm "off stage." However, leaders are never off stage, unless to their closest friends and family. Everyone else continually judges them. Harsh language off-duty and happy talk on duty can and are perceived as two-faced. Best to keep my unvarnished opinions to myself.
  • Limited Ability to Delegate: Being the hypercompetent type, I don't trust that everyone will do things as well as I would. As a result, I take too much upon myself, leading to overload and stress (see above). This was, a caring coworker told me gently today, is one of the worst characteristics a leader can have. Point taken.
  • Impatience: This feeds a lot of different things, such as being deadline-driven (not always realistically). I don't suffer fools, unreasoning resistance, or petty arguing well. I'm better than I used to be, scary as that sounds, but I need to "balance my chi."

The same friend who took me to task for not delegating suggested that I focus on Servant Leadership, which I read back when I had too much free time at Disney. "You need to make it about them. If you demonstrate that they'll be able to fulfill their dreams by doing what you want, they'll be more willing to follow you. You make it about you, you're finished." Ow. 'Tis true, but I needed to hear it. Guess I'll have to pick up that book again, read it, and live it. Now I just need to figure out how to get my "stressing out" or "getting spun up" behavior under control. Hm.

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