Character in the Organization

June 15th, 2010 @   -  No Comments

Having a clear vision and a good business model is important, but will never be a substitute for a good character. In good character, there is power. It can build and strengthen relationships. It can turn enemies into friends, and opponents into companions. The Prophet (PBUH) said,  “The best amongst you are those who have the best manners and character.” (Bukhari)

Character is a set of behavior traits that define what types of person we are.  Our behaviors and actions are the final expression of our character. However, we usually tend to judge ourselves by our intentions and judge others by their action. Likewise, others cannot read our intention. They only see our behaviors and actions.

Leaders who develop and manage their character are aware of how their behavior is being seen and consistently look for ways to positively influence others and eliminate any potential negative impact of their behaviors on others. This awareness helps them improve their character by adjusting or changing their behaviors. Successful leaders set the example by aligning their actions with their beliefs, principles and values. They are conscious of the decisions they make and how close these decisions bring them to being the person they really want to be. People follow a person before they buy into a strategy or a business plan.

Here are some positive behavioral indicators for a good character in leaders:

  • Make decisions based on what is best for the organization and the stakeholders rather than personal interest
  • Deliver on commitments
  • Treat everyone the same
  • Work collaboratively with others
  • Are transparent  - no hidden agendas
  • Repel evil with good. Allah (SWT) said, “And not equal are the good deed and the bad. Repel [evil] by that [deed] which is better; and thereupon the one whom between you and him is enmity [will become] as though he was a devoted friend.” (Quran 41:34)

On the other hand, here are some red flags and warning signs of leaders of weak character:

  • Take anger or stress out on nearest person.
  • Close down or are defensive when receiving feedback.
  • Appear arrogant and see themselves as better than others
  • Let others take the blame when things go wrong.
  • Expect certain behaviors but do not set personal example.
  • Are biased and fail to give equal support or development opportunities to all members of the team.
  • Shout at staff and address poor performance in public.
  • Talk dismissively about people.
  • Take advantage of and misuse organization resources.

It should be noted that poor character also leads to bankruptcy in the hereafter. The Prophet said, “Do you know who is poor? The Companions of the Prophet replied, “A poor man amongst us is one who has neither dirham (money) with him nor wealth.” He said, “The poor would be he who would come on the Day of Judgment with prayers and fasts and Zakat but (he would find himself bankrupt on that day as he would have exhausted his funds of virtues) since he hurled abuses upon others, brought calumny against others and unlawfully consumed the wealth of others and shed the blood of others and beat others, and his virtues would be credited to the account of one (who suffered at his hand). And if his good deeds fall short to clear the account, then his sins would be entered in (his account) and he would be thrown in the Hell-Fire.” (Muslim)

So what do you need to change so that your behavior is aligned with your belief? And how can you introduce character as a core value in your organization?

Business leaders of today are learning the hard way that it is not productive to focus only on the bottom line. Lately, we consistently hear news of character failures of leaders and influential personalities in politics, corporations, and not-for-profit organizations. What is more alarming is its frequency, and the disastrous impact of character failure on a wide range of organizations, societies and economies. Hence, character building is crucial to the survival and the ongoing success of organizations and societies as well.

Leaders that value character should put character building at the heart of the organization training programs for employees and use it as one of the major criteria when doing performance reviews, promotion and succession planning. This certainly requires an investment of time and resources. But, this investment pale in comparison when we look at the cost of character failure which could include deteriorating work ethics, theft and misuse of organization resources, reduced productivity and a drop in employee morale. An organization whose employees have good character will serve better its stakeholders and certainly become much more successful.

The starting point for a character development program is to study and learn the biography and the character traits of the most perfect person, the prophet (PBUH).  Allah describe him, “You are blessed with a great moral character.” (Quran 68:4). His biography is full of vivid examples of all character traits.

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