FROM study and observation and from my own strivings. I have isolated eight discernible unique qualities of people who are principle-centered leaders. These trails not only characterise effective leaders, they also serve as signs of progress for all of us. I will briefly discus each in turn.
THEY ARE CONTINUALLY LEARNING: Principle-centered leaders are constantly educated by their experiences. They read and seek training, they listen to others and learn through both their ears and eyes. They are curious, always asking questions. They continually expand their competence and their ability to do things. They develop new skills and new interests. They realise that the more they know, the more they realise, how little they know; as their thrust for knowledge grows, so does its outside edge of ignorance. Most of this learning and growth energy are self-initiated and feed upon themselves.
You will develop these abilities faster by learning to make and keep promises or commitments. Start by making a small promise to yourself; continue fulfilling that promise until you have the right texture of self-control. Now take the next level of challenge. Make yourself a promise and keep it until you have established control at that level. Now move to the next level; make the promise, keep it. As you do this, your sense of personal worth will increase; your sense of self-mastery will grow, as will your confidence, that you can master the next level.
Be serious and intent in the whole process, because if you make this commitment to yourself and then break it, your self-esteem will be weakened and your capacity to make and keep another promise will be lowered.
They are service-oriented: Those striving to be principle-centered take life as a mission, not as a career. Their nurturing sources are armed and always they remain prepared for service. In fact, every morning they "yoke up" and put on the harness of service, thinking of serving others.
See yourself each morning yoking up, putting on the harness of service in various stewardships. See yourself taking the straps and connecting them around your shoulders as you prepare to do the work assigned to you that day. If you see yourself allowing someone else to adjust the yoke or harness, you would see yourself yoked up to another person at your side as co-worker and learn to pull together with that person.
I emphasize this principle of service or yoking up because I have come to believe that effort to become principle-centered without simply to carry a load will not succeed. We may attempt to do it as a kind of intellectual or moral exercise, but if we don't have a sense of responsibility, of service or of contribution, it becomes a futile endeavour.
THEY RADIATE POSITIVE ENERGY: The countenances of principle-centered people are cheerful, pleasant and happy. Their attitude is optimistic, positive and upbeat. Their spirit is enthusiastic, hopeful and believing.
This positive energy is like an energy field or an aura that surrounds someone and that similarly charges or changes the weaker & negative energy fields around him. They also attract and magnify smaller positive energy fields. When they come into contact with strong, negative energy sources, they tend either to neutralise or to sidestep this negative energy. Sometimes they will simply leave it, walking away from its poisonous orbit. Wisdom gives them a sense of its strength and a sense of humour and of timing in dealing with it.
Be aware of the effect of your own energy and understand how you radiate and direct it. And in the middle of confusion or contention or negative energy, strive to be a peacemaker, a harmoniser, to undo or reverse destructive energy. You will discover what a self-fulfilling charisma positive energy can create when combined with optimistic bend of mind.
They believe in other people: Principle-centered people do not overreact to negative behaviours, criticism or human weaknesses. They don't feel built up when they discover the weaknesses of others. They are not native; they are aware of weakness. But they realise that behaviour and potential are two different things. They believe in the unseen potential of all people around.
They feel grateful for the blessings and feel naturally compassionate to forgive and forget the offenses made by others. They don't carry grudges. They refuse to label other people to stereotype, categorise, and prejudge. Rather, they see the oak tree in the acorn and understand the process of helping the acorn become a great oak.
Once my wife and I felt uneasy about the labels we and others had attached to one of our sons, even though these labels were justified by his behaviour. By visualising his potential, we gradually came to see him differently. When we believed in the unseen potential, the old labels vanished naturally, and we stopped trying to change him overnight. We simply knew that his talent and potential would bring him under the right light in its own time. And it did, to the astonishment of others, including other family members. Me and my wife, we were not surprised because we knew who he was, all along!
Truly, believing is seeing. We must, therefore, seek to believe in the unseen potential. This creates a climate for growth and opportunity. Self-centered people believe that the key lies in them, in their techniques, in doing their thing to others. This works only temporarily. If you believe it's in them, not in you, you relax, accept, affirm, and let it happen. Either way it is a self-fulfilling prophecy.
THEY LEAD BALANCED LIVES: They read the best literature and magazines and keep up with current affairs and events. They are socially active, having many friends and a few confidants. They are active intellectually, having may interests. They read, watch, observe and learn within the limits of age and health. They are humorous, particularly laughing at themselves and not at others' expense. You can sense they have healthy regard for, and honesty about, themselves.
They can feel their own worth, which is manifested by their courage and integrity and by the absence of or a need to brag, to drop names, to borrow strength from possessions or credentials or titles or past achievements. They are open in communication, simple, direct and non-manipulative. They also have sense of what is appropriate and would sooner end on the side of understatement than on the side of exaggeration.
They are not extremists; they do not make everything out of nothing. They do not divide everything into two parts, seeing everything as good or bad, as either-or. They think in terms of continuums, priorities, hierarchies. They have the power to discriminate, to sense the similarities and differences in each situation. This does not mean they see everything in terms of situational ethics. They fully recognise absolutes and courageously condemn the bad and champion the good.
Their actions and attitudes are proportionate to the situation balanced, temperate, moderate & wise. For instance, they are not workaholics or religious zealots or political fanatics or diet chasers, neither are they food bingers or pleasure addicts or fasting martyrs! They are not slavishly chained to their plans and schedules. They don't condemn the people around for every foolish mistake or social blunder. They don't brood about yesterday or daydream about tomorrow. They live sensibly in the present, carefully plan the future, and flexibly adapt to changing circumstances. Their self-honesty is revealed by the sense of humour, their willingness to admit and then forget mistakes, and cheerfully doing the things ahead that lie within their power.
They have no need to manipulate through either intimidating anger or self-pitying martyrdom. They are genuinely happy for others' successes and never feel any anguish related with it. They take both praise and blame proportionately without head trips or overreactions. They see success on the far side of failure. The only real failure for them is passing by any opportunity of learning from any experience.
THEY SEE LIFE AS AN ADVENTURE: Principle-centered people savour life. Because their security comes from within instead of from without, they have no need to categorise and stereotype everything and everybody in life to give them a sense of certainty and predictability. They see old faces freshly, old scenes as if for the first time. They are like courageous explorers going on an expedition into uncharted territories; they are really not sure what is going to happen, but are confident it will be exciting and growth producing and that they will discover new territories and make new contributions. Their security lies in their initiative, resourcefulness, creativity, willpower, courage, stamina and native intelligence rather than in the safety, protection, and abundance of their comfort zones.
They rediscover people each time they meet them. They are interested in them. They ask questions and get involved. They are completely present when they listen. They learn form them. They don't label others from past successes or failures. They see no one bigger than life. They are not overawed by top government figures or celebrities. They resist becoming any person's disciple. They are basically unflappable and capable of adapting virtually to anything that comes along. One of their fixed principles is flexibility. They truly lead the abundant life….
THEY ARE SYNERGISTIC: Synergy is the state in which the whole is more than the sum of parts. Principle-centered people are synergistic. They are change catalysts. They improve almost any situation they get into. They work as smart as they work hard. They are amazingly productive, but in new and creative ways.
In team endeavours they build on their strength and strive to complement their weaknesses with the strengths of others. Delegation for results is easy and natural to them, since they believe in others' strengths and capacities. And since they are not threatened by the fact that others are better in some ways, they feel no need to supervise them closely.
When principle-centered people negotiate and communicate with others in seemingly adversarial situations, they learn to separate the people from the problem. They focus on the other person's interests and concerns rather than fight over positions. Gradually others discover their sincerity and become part of a creative problem-solving process. Together they arrive at synergistic solutions, which are usually much better than any of the original proposals, as opposed to compromise solutions wherein both parties give and take a little.
THEY EXERCISE FOR SELF-RENEWAL: Finally, principle-centered people regularly exercise the four dimensions of the human personality; physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual. They participate in some kind of balanced, moderate, regular programme of aerobic exercise, meaning cardiovascular exercise -- using the large leg muscles and the heart and lungs. This provides endurance, improving the capacity of the body and brain to use oxygen-along with many other physical and mental benefits. Also valuable are stretching exercises for flexibility and resistance exercises for strength and muscle tone.
They exercise their minds through reading, creative problem solving, writing and visualising. Emotionally they make an effort to be patient, to listen to others with genuine empathy to show unconditional love, and to accept responsibility for their own lives and decisions and reactions. Spiritually they focus on prayer, scripture study, meditation and fasting.
I am convinced that if a person will spend one hour a day on these basic exercises, he or she will improve the quality, productivity and satisfaction of every other hour of the day including the depth and restfulness of sleep.
No other single hour of your day will return as much as the hour you invest in sharpening the saw-that is in exercising these four dimensions of the human personality. If you do this daily, you will soon experience the impact for good on your life.
Some of these activities may be done in the normal course of the day; others will need to be scheduled into the day. They take some time, but in the long run they save us a great deal of time. We must never get too busy sawing or to take time to sharpen the saw, never too busy driving to take time to get gas.
I find that if I do this hour of exercise early in the morning, it is like a private victory and just about guarantee public victories throughout the day. But if I take the course of least resistance and neglect all or part of this programme, I forfeit that private victory and find myself uprooted by public pressures and stresses through the day.
These principles of self-renewal will gradually produce a strong and healthy character with a powerfully disciplined and service-focused will.
The writer is Managing Director, Prime Bank Limited