Ever been placed in a situation where you were really put to the test? Perhaps it was a defining moment for your personal life or professional career?

Many of us have to make decisions that define who we are. It's arriving at the crossroads of choosing between towing the line, or doing the difficult, unpopular, thing that could end jobs, sever partnerships, and even tear apart marriages.

In business and corporate culture, walking the higher road of moral authority can be a very lonely place. But when these three traits go on display interpersonally and systemically, legacies are made, careers advance, and companies ultimately flourish.

I speak of the type of leaders that...

1. Show Character

Working in integrity means that you don't question your character. As the famous saying goes, it's doing the right thing even when no one is looking; and especially when the choice isn't easy.

Character means staying true to yourself and your values, even when you're faced with serious consequences for the right choices that you're making--like, perhaps,  losing a job. Is your character willing to take that hit?

When you listen to your heart and make choices aligned with character, you simplify your life and live in peace. Your actions are now open for everyone to see, and you don't have to worry about hiding anything.

"Integrity -- the choice between what's convenient, and what's right." -- Tony Dungy in Uncommon

2. Develop Trust

Nowadays, leaders can't rely on positional authority alone to get things done. Work environments are now flatter, decentralized, dispersed, and virtual.

And yet, more than ever, they are faced with business challenges that call for higher levels of innovation, knowledge, and soft skills.

How can leaders, managers, and founders develop and maintain a well-oiled bus full of rock stars to develop product and keep customers happy in this relationship and social economy?

The secret is trust.

When we operate from integrity, we gain the trust of our people. They see you as dependable and accountable for your actions. People feel safe in your presence, and you gain influence.

"Leaders can no longer trust in power; instead they rely on the power of trust." -- Charles Green, Forbes Magazine

SAS Institute, voted one of Fortune magazine's Best Companies to Work For nineteen years in a row, arrived there by developing a culture based on "trust between our employees and the company," said Jim Goodnight, their CEO.

3. Exercise Influence

Character begets trust. Trust begets influence. And if you haven't heard, leadership success is all about influence.

In fact, if you want to know whether you're a person of influence, look no further than the respect and admiration you receive from others when your walk matches your talk.

With influence, you let people know where you stand, back the mission, and follow through on your word.  If you're a person of influence you may lose a friend or business partner, but those who matter the most in your inner circle will have your back.

Let's do a little test, courtesy of leadership expert John Maxwell. Maxwell came up with five questions to determine your leadership influence, what he dubs the "Five C's of Influence." They are consistency, credit, choices, character and credibility.

Take this moment of truth for a spin, and see how you do.

1. Consistency: Are you the same person no matter who's with you?

2. Credit: Are you quick to recognize others for their efforts when you succeed?

3. Choices: Do you make decisions based on how they benefit you or others?

4. Character: Do you work harder at your image and reputation or your integrity?

5. Credibility: Do you recognize that leadership is above all, a relationship, and that credibility is the cornerstone? And as a credible leader, do you "say what you mean and mean what you say?"


The good news: Every single one of us has character and trust issues that could be holding us back, and may lack influence to lead well. That doesn't make you bad, broken, or inadequate.  It just means you are human.

The great news: Every single one of us can look at our shortcomings and roadblocks as fabulous opportunities to grow character, develop trust, and build leadership capacity to influence others for competitive advantage. Will you consider it?