How to Build Character Among Leaders

How to Inspire Others as a Leader

One of the behavioral traits of an influential leader is to inspire.

This brings me to one of my favorite stories about AJ, my wife and CEO of Brand Builders Group.

We were business partners in our former venture and we’re business partners now. Now, we’ve only known each other as business partners. We started as business partners before we ever started dating. 

And AJ is a driver. She’s an attack taskmaster. She runs the business and runs the house. She’s extremely efficient, focused, and driven. 

When AJ and I got married, we went down to the county clerk’s office to get our marriage license.

If you’re married, you know how this works. You must get a license filled out to make the marriage official. 

While we were at the county clerk’s office, this woman slides this clipboard across the desk to us, and naturally, AJ grabs it. The top half of the paper is all about her information. She writes in her name, her birth date, her social security number, etc. When she gets down to the bottom half of the paper, which is supposed to be all about the husband, but rather than giving it to me to fill out, she decides she will go ahead and fill this out for me just to make it efficient and to make sure it gets done. She is writing in my name, birthday, and social security number.  

She gets down to the last question that asks about ethnicity. She writes it in for me as a Caucasian.

I looked at her and I said, “Honey, what are you doing?”

And she said, “What?”

I said, “You just wrote down Caucasian.”

She says, ”Yeah?”

I said, “Honey, I’m Mexican.”

It was the first moment it dawned on her that she was actually about to marry a Mexican man!

I have to say that there was a slight moment where I was a little scared. I was nervous if she was still going to go through with the whole thing because it hit her.

She knew yet she didn’t know. It hadn’t sunk in yet for her. 

She knew my mother’s maiden name was Realivasquez.

She knew my grandmother was born in Mexico. 

She didn’t think of me in that way, even though it was true. 

That’s not how she thought about me. 

And that speaks to an important part of what it means to inspire as a leader. 

 What you must realize is that we do not believe what is true. 

Our minds do not believe what is true. Our minds do not even know what is true. 

We believe whatever it is that we hear the most often. 

You get to decide what is the truth. 

You get to tell yourself what is true. 

And we typically believe it or we do not.

Typically, we do.  

We believe whatever we hear most often as truth.

Think about this. 

How do you know that your name is your name? The only way you know what your name is is because people have repeated it. They have called you that your whole life.   

Now, how else do you know?

Well, you have a piece of paper. A birth certificate with a name on it.  

What is a name?  

A name is something that you can make up.  

If you have seen my Ted talk, you will be familiar with the story about how I found and met my dad. My name used to be Rory McLaughlin. It used to be my name until I was 12 years old then it became Rory Vaden. 

Most of you know me and think of me as Rory Vaden, but I was born Rory McLaughlin.  

A name is just like anything else. 

It is what you hear most often.  

This matters as a leader because what you say about your team becomes the truth to them. 

What you say about your company becomes the truth to them.

What you say about your leadership team becomes the truth to them. 

What you say about yourself, what you say about their colleagues, what you say about your product, what you say about your competitors, etc. Those things become truth. 

What Does Inspire Mean? 

The word “inspire” means to “breathe life into.” 

Words can give life; words can also take it away. 

That is both exciting and terrifying. 

Especially when you are the leader, it matters tremendously. Your words are really important. 

Why is Character Development Important in Leaders?

rory vaden quote

How does this tie into leadership? 

Well, we realized, during this whole conversation about character and becoming an influential leader, a person’s internal character is hard to see. 

It’s hard to know what someone’s character is like except our internal character reveals itself quite obviously through our external communication. 

This goes back to what we were talking about leading by example in my other post with a service-centered checklist of these behaviors which makes it obvious.

The words that people speak also are very revealing about a person’s character. 

To say it directly, criticism, negativity, and blame are signs of true underlying insecurity.

I know that might seem obvious, but I am telling you, for most people, that is the truth. 

If you are confident as a person, you are not busy criticizing other people. 

If you are focused on being positive and you have confidence, faith, and trust that things are going to be okay, you are not pointing out the negatives. 

If you are confident, you can take the heat. You can take criticism. You can take feedback because you are rooted in confidence.

But if not, it is because you are insecure. 

Again, it does not mean it is bad. 

All of us are insecure. 

Every person is insecure at some level. We all are. 

There is no superstar, celebrity, or world leader that does not have deep insecurities.  

It is part of the human experience. 

But as we develop our character, there must be a shift.

As we teach other people to reach the highest level of leadership as influential leaders, optimism, trust, and responsibility are signs of true underlying confidence. 

If I am confident, it is easier to be optimistic.

“Yeah, that’s hard. That’s difficult, but you know what? It’s going to be okay. It always works out.”

There is this trust and faith because I have deep-rooted confidence in myself, in our team, in our product, in our leaders. 

It does not mean we do not have challenging times. It means I believe that it will get better. I have the perspective of knowing that even though right now it is painful, I fully trust it will work itself out. It is not worth negativity and all that other stuff right now because it is just a matter of time. 

It is just granting a little grace of time.

That is a sign of true confidence. 

The challenge with leaders, specifically, negativity from a leader is like high winds to a forest fire.

Negativity from a leader is like high winds to a forest fire. 

Whether you like it or not, whether you realize it or not, whether you want it or not, the higher level you are as a leader, the more weight your words carry. 

This is why world leaders and celebrities undergo scrutiny in the public media for the things they say.    

The more people that are looking at you, the more your words matter.

A little bit of negativity from a leader spreads like high winds to a forest fire. 

Everything you say as a leader is amplified and we often do not realize it.

How about you? How will you start today to inspire others as a leader? Let me know in the comments below. 

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