I am fascinated with Abraham Lincoln...if I could go back in time and meet anyone...he would be it. Lincoln was a true leader who embodied attributes of leadership that is absent from many corporations today. I found his ability to communicate an unwavering commitment to a higher purpose admirable. Especially since he was able to do so without compromising his values, integrity or acting recklessly.
Lincoln once said; "Character is like a tree and reputation like its shadow. The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing.” With this quote we can begin to understand ones true character. There are trees, and then there are "trees". Willow trees bend in the wind, they are flexible under the stress of snow and ice, and they bounce back. Oak trees grow tall and straight, are not swayed by stormy weather, and are the safe haven to birds and animals. Pine trees, are fast growing, not as dependable, and short-lived.
The trees characteristics are reflected in human beings too. We have known many different personalities both in our personal and professional life that are flexible, rigid, dependable or non-dependable. Most of what we see though is merely a small fraction of who the person really is. Depending on the situation (and which way the angle the light is shining) determines what aspect of that tree or person we see. If all we see is a sliver of a shadow, our perception of that person is incomplete. In some cases, the light can strike in such a way as to produce a halo effect. Neither situation reflects the real truth or inner power of the person (or the tree).
As leaders, we must reveal more of our true character through our actions and our communication. How we connect with other people is the shadow they see. To be an effective leader, we need to show more of ourselves, than reflected light. We need to expose our true character and become transparent. As a Leader, we need to show that despite other's behavior, we will always be respectful to those around us and continue to move in the direction of our vision. We must learn to trust ourselves enough to express it through our actions.
Leaders are called leaders because they go first. Perhaps our role is to shine the first light on the solution to a challenging situation. Perhaps we must demonstrate flexibility vs inflexibility. But demonstrating true character is essential. When we allow others to see our true selves, mutual trust can develop. With trust, healthy connections are established and strengthened. This is the crux of true leadership. Come out of the shadows and become the tree in the forest, not merely the shadow. Let your character and your reputation become one and for those who choose differently...remember to hold your head high, always show respect and know that it is a reflection of YOUR values and what makes you stand out as a LEADER.