Articles of Faith: A Crisis of Civility

Civility and Politics

This post is part of our Sunday Series titled “Articles of Faith.”
We investigate leadership lessons from the Bible.
See the whole series here. Published only on Sundays.

A Faithlink study from 2009 posed the question: is civility dead?

Has it gone the way of written thank-you notes and bows and curtseys, practices of common courtesy that are now remarkable as the exception rather than the rule? Or is boorishness just a long-standing side effect of American informality?

For Christians, these questions go even deeper as we ask how our faith informs our interactions with others.

Civility has been on my mind since the midterm elections when all of the hateful and mean-spirited ads were taking up the airwaves. Regardless of political leaning, the attacks were relentless and set the stage for what turned out to be one of the nastiest elections in history. Former Republican Congressman Jim Leach, speaking in Delaware on his American Civility Tour, asked

If all men are created equal, then doesn’t it follow all men’s ideas are worthy of respect?

I think the answer to this question depends on who you ask and the nature of your character in this world.

One of the leading experts on civility in the secular world is P. M. Forni, author of The Civility Solution. Reflecting back on the original question regarding the demise of civility, Forni suggests that while not dead, civility is certainly on the decline. His thoughts provide a code of decency allowing us to break the cycle of rudeness in our lives. Forni states

The decline of civility is a social phenomenon that is being discussed now with the frequency and intensity that was not there 10 years ago.

The leading expert on civility in our faith life is Jesus Christ. In teaching about loving others, He tells us to make the conscious choice to love our enemies. This isn’t the kind of love you fall in to; this is the kind of love that defines us as Christians. Jesus defines for us a strong base on which to build civil discourse in Luke 6: 27-36 (NIV):

But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. 31 Do to others as you would have them do to you. “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.

For Christians, the idea that civility is dead or simply just declining is somewhat irrelevant. The simple message we must take into the world is how others should be treated; and of this we have numerous examples:

Matthew 5:22 (NIV)

But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.

John 13:34 (NIV)

A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.

Colossians 4:6 (NIV)

Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.

James 3:10 (NIV)

Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be.

Perhaps Christians have a special responsibility in regards to civility, one of helping others respect one another and engage in a language of love. Kerry Robinson of the National Leadership Roundtable on Church Management offers a hopeful perspective

Anger and hatred have existed perpetually and they are symptomatic of our fractured condition. But religious faith, at its most authentic, can inspire us to inculcate qualities and habits that make us fully and truly human: respect, humility and love.

While certainly more than political in nature, civility remains something for which we all must be engaged. The Civility Project invites everyone to take its civility pledge:

  • I will be civil in my public discourse and behavior.
  • I will be respectful of others whether or not I agree with them.
  • I will stand against incivility when I see it.

I took the pledge… will join me?

Dr. Hampton Hopkins is President of Hopkins Associates
He consults, writes, and speaks about leadership and organizational development

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Leadership: The Difference Between Quilts and Puzzles

Puzzle Quilts

A recent visit to a quilt show at a regional festival reminded me of an old saying “when life throws you scraps, make a quilt.”

This implies such a positive, can-do attitude. While I have never made a quilt, I do understand the commitment, creativity, and passion within each beautiful mosaic of fabric and thread. We have the opportunity to weave a similar mosaic everyday as leaders.

I heard it stated once that leaders “leave their footprints in their areas of passion.” This represents an overwhelming commitment to change and organizational growth and development. Such change certainly requires openness to creativity and forward-thinking… thus strengthening the underlying passion. And the cycle continues.

Entrepreneurial Leadership

These same great qualities are found in entrepreneurial leadership. While the current literature in entrepreneurial leadership devotes much attention to the roles entrepreneurs play in their respective organizations, it is a relatively new field of leadership study. In the article A New Paradigm: Entrepreneurial Leadership, the authors ask whether entrepreneurial leadership is a new style of leadership or an escape from management. Let’s explore this question.

The consideration of managers versus leaders explores a classic dichotomy in organizations. Leaders do the right thing while managers do things right. Admiral Grace Hopper said “manage things… lead people” and John Adair advises “if your organization is not on a journey, don’t bother about leadership – just settle for management.”

I think the difference is further highlighted in five attributes of leadership: risk advocacy, passion, locus of control, responsibility, and vision.

Risk Advocacy

Leaders are willing to take risks after careful consideration. Leaders are not paralyzed by fear and inaction but seek to explore opportunities for change. According to the article Leadership and risk taking, this is especially true for the entrepreneurial leader who sees themselves as more resilient and able to overcome setbacks. Les Brown expressed the idea of risk clearly when he said

Too many of us are not living our dreams because we are living our fears


Leaders show enthusiasm and zeal for the organization and its mission. This passion comes from within and is not something that can be learned. Uju Onyechere suggests “we are created in such a way that whenever anything fires our soul, impossibilities vanish.” Leaders who excel within their organizations do so in part because they have a passion that manifests itself in excellence and commitment to the vision of the organization.

Passion can be summed up in this quote by Mark Twain:

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover

Locus of Control

Leaders have high internal locus of control suggesting that success comes from within. Murray Johannsen lists the fourth of his nine characteristics of successful entrepreneurs as locus of control. He states that instead of assuming that events are under the control of others, leaders consider how their actions influence these events. This allows leaders to also assume responsibility when things don’t go as planned. Donald Trump said

Experience taught me a few things. One is to listen to your gut, no matter how good something sounds on paper. The second is that you’re generally better off sticking with what you know. And the third is that sometimes your best investments are the ones you don’t make


Leaders learn from their mistakes and avoid the repetition that others may be guilty of. In his article Responsibility and its role in leadership, George Ambler suggests leaders are given authority and accountability, but they are not given responsibility. Leaders have to take responsibility. Ownership and responsibility are hallmarks of great leaders and great entrepreneurs. As Adam Osborne stated

The most valuable thing you can make is a mistake – you can’t learn anything from being perfect


Leaders know where to go, how to get there, and what it takes to bring people along. Joseph Quigley, in discussing the development and sharing of vision, suggests that leaders understand they are in competition for the hearts and minds of others. In order to win others over amidst the myriad things vying for their attention, leaders must create and share a vision that is appealing and achievable. John Maxwell said it best

A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way

So, what’s the difference between quilts and puzzles?

The puzzle is managerial whereby it represents boxed-in thinking; working towards solutions that are pre-defined by a set of rules or parameters. Quilts, on the other hand, are entrepreneurial, creative expressions of leadership; open-ended thinking not limited by a picture of what the solution should look like.

In your teams, do you make quilts or assemble puzzles? Do you limit the creative thinking of those around you or seek creative solutions to organizational problems? I would love to hear your thoughts.

Dr. Hampton Hopkins is President of Hopkins Associates
He consults, writes, and speaks about leadership and organizational development
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Articles of Faith: Spiritual Leadership

This post is part of our Sunday Series titled “Articles of Faith.”
We investigate leadership lessons from the Bible.
See the whole series here. Published only on Sundays.

There was a recent article published in a newspaper whereby the reporter asked the question “who are your heroes?” to a group of high school students.

Their answer: “Lady Gaga, Big Papi, Paul Pierce, Beyonce, Kanye West, Gloria Steinem” among others. While certainly some of these high schoolers got it right with their answers, there is much evidence to suggest a blurred line between celebrity and hero.

This blurred line between celebrity and hero has also impacted people’s view of the essence of true leadership and influence.

John 13

Who are your heroes and why?

A hero is someone we admire for their abilities and quality of character. Too often we get caught up in this idea of celebrity instead of quality of character. When asked in terms of leadership, a hero is often viewed in terms of power, ambition, and assertiveness – those who have fought their way to the top.

Secular Leadership

There are too many leadership books on the market telling us how to become better leaders by developing our worldly skills. In a list compiled by Eric Jacobsen on Linkedin and published here, there are 235 interesting and fascinating books about leadership, many of which I have read in developing my thoughts and ideas, but not one person mentioned the Bible.

Spiritual Leadership

I submit there is a different model of leadership – a spiritual model that is strengthened as we develop our spiritual skills. In the online article What is Spiritual Leadership, the authors suggest that spiritual leaders seek God’s plan instead of their own and marshal others to achieve it.

In his book, Twelve Ordinary Men, John MacArthur suggests six character qualities of a spiritual leader: submission, restraint, humility, love, compassion, and courage. The writer of Hebrews suggests in chapter 5 (verses 1-5) a model for spiritual leadership whereby leaders are:

  1. Focused on people and how they connect with God
  2. Compassionate with those who are weak
  3. Required to face sin head-on
  4. Not self-appointed, but rather called by God into the leadership role

A Real Hero

John MacArthur and the author of Hebrews is writing about a real hero and a true leader: Jesus Christ.

He is the perfect leadership role model for all of us. Jesus’ servant-style of spiritual leadership was unassuming and personal. He was focused on others and their personal relationship with God. He faced sin head-on for our salvation. He served in His divine role by the appointment of God.

He was compassionate with those who were weak.

When Jesus was washing Peter’s feet and explaining to him the essence of servant leadership. he told him this in John 13: 12-17

12-17Then he said, “Do you understand what I have done to you? You address me as ‘Teacher’ and ‘Master,’ and rightly so. That is what I am. So if I, the Master and Teacher, washed your feet, you must now wash each other’s feet. I’ve laid down a pattern for you. What I’ve done, you do. I’m only pointing out the obvious. A servant is not ranked above his master; an employee doesn’t give orders to the employer. If you understand what I’m telling you, act like it—and live a blessed life. (The Message)

As we serve those in our charge, let us remember to always be focused on developing devoted disciples of Christ, to showing compassion to others through our service, to facing the challenges of living in this world but not of this world, and most importantly to remembering that we are here by the grace of God and it is He whom we serve.

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Dr. Hampton Hopkins is President of Hopkins Associates
He consults, writes, and speaks about leadership and organizational development
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The Portability of Knowledge

With the complex and evolving nature of the world today, the paradigm of centralized decision-making is a thing of the past. Gone with this monolithic concept is the vertical orientation of our organizations, replaced instead by a lateral model of inclusiveness and knowledge-sharing. In this organization everyone is a valued member and has the autonomy, authority, and competence to make decisions.

Does this organization sound familiar? Probably not. Can this organization exist in our current business climate? I think so… let’s build the case.

What is knowledge and who has it?

According to Plato, knowledge is “justified true belief,” meaning that for someone to have knowledge, it must be believed to be true, it must be true, and the truth must be justifiable. But knowledge is a philosophy that is much-debated so we will accept knowledge to be something we know when we see and experience it.

In too many situations, we manage to the idea that knowledge is only found in those who have authority… but as leaders, we know the opposite is true; knowledge can found at every level of the organization and in every person. In the words of the immortal Walt Disney

We allow no geniuses around our studio

Quantum theory and knowledge

In the world of quantum physics everything is either energy or information, according to Deepak Chopra in his book The Spontaneous Fulfillment of Desire: Harnessing the Infinite Power of Coincidence. As we come into contact with each other, we share energy and information on a variety of levels. Think about it… do some people bring you down and others lift you up?

Do you read the negative body language of some co-workers while feeling the love from others? At some point we all are either adding value or detracting value within the organization. It’s the same with knowledge. We either add value by sharing knowledge and working together, or we detract value by withholding knowledge in an act of selfishness, or worse, sabotage.

Knowledge as a competitive advantage

Imagine everyone in your organization having the autonomy, authority, and competence to make decisions. In order for this to truly produce a competitive advantage, all three must exist. To paint a picture of this, consider someone who has the autonomy and the authority, but lacks the competence; the decisions of this person may not be very sound.

The idea of inclusive decision-making has become critical in light of the continued importance of the knowledge workers in our organizations. Such a culture establishes the learning organization as being more responsive, customer-serving, and competitively positioned for the future. As Jack Welch, the former chairman of General Electric once commented

An organizations ability to learn, and translate that learning into action rapidly, is the greatest competitive advantage

The lesson of knowledge portability

It’s simple… knowledge workers need to understand how they contribute to the organization. If we, as leaders, fail to empower these workers by providing them the necessary autonomy, authority, and competence, they will leave and carry their knowledge with them.

A recent article in the Harvard Business Review titled Leadership Lessons from India suggests that the source of the competitive advantage for Indian companies is in the people. The authors suggest four specific means for engaging the knowledge worker:

1. Create a shared sense of mission and purpose

2. Engage through transparency and accountability

3. Empower through communication

4. Invest in training

These ideas are not new… Indian leaders simply prioritize these practices and consistently maintain a focus on the knowledge worker.

Leaders across the world need to be able to respond to a simple question: Why should a knowledge worker want to be led by you? What is your response?

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Dr. Hampton Hopkins is President of Hopkins Associates
He consults, writes, and speaks about leadership and organizational development
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Leadership Sabotage: Intentional or Not?

There are countless ways every day whereby leaders engage in sabotage. While it can be argued that much of this is unintentional, the proliferation of such acts begs otherwise. But, you may ask, what is sabotage? This is a good question and the simple answer is

Sabotage is a deliberate act of destruction or work stoppage intended to undermine the activities of a larger entity, whether it is a business, government, or some other organization

But the more comprehensive answer and the one that impacts our ability as leaders can be explained in terms of personal leadership, team leadership, and organizational leadership.

Sabotage as Personal Leadership

In the article, 5 Ways to Sabotage your Leadership Ability, the author suggests five common reasons leaders fail. The five reasons are avoiding and discouraging conflict, refusing to get involved in employees’ personal lives, intervening too early in people’s struggles, being too charismatic, and being too moody.

Sabotage as Team Leadership

Catherine L. Moreton explains sabotage as five dysfunctions that can interfere with the leadership of a team. The five dysfunctions are absence of trust, fear of conflict, lack of commitment, avoidance of accountability, and inattention to results. Each of these dysfunctions, when allowed to occur within an organization, can certainly sabotage even the best leaders.

Sabotage as Organizational Leadership

Michael McKinney suggests in his blog that sabotage is something all leaders should be aware of and expect. He says “an effective leader should expect to be attacked as a result of their leadership”. He argues that sabotage must occur, and be overcome, for the leader to truly be successful.

The sabotage discussed above can be found in leaders and organizations, but the sabotage I want to conclude with is much less obvious, and much more prevalent in all organizations. While we get caught up in the sabotage of others as described above, the real issue is in how we, as leaders, seek to create sabotage in our organizations. In the words of the Beastie Boys

You’re scheming on a thing that’s a mirage I’m trying to tell you now its sabotage

I suggest that sabotage is intentional manipulation – a means of interfering in the actions and outcomes of the organization. Sabotage is such a powerful tool, that the United States Government created a Simple Sabotage Field Manual describing interference with organizations. A few of the suggested means of sabotage, and how we are influenced by them today, are discussed below:

Insist on doing everything through “channels”. Never permit short-cuts to be taken in order to expedite decisions.

As leaders, do we create unnecessary bureaucracies or hierarchies that slow down the decision making process? Consider flattening your organization so that decisions can flow horizontally among the various work units instead of vertically through layers of management.

Bring up irrelevant issues as frequently as possible.

As leaders, do we allow others to get off topic and dominate the meeting? Consider a carefully planned agenda and inviting only those who have a legitimate need to be at the table to the meeting and then managing to the agenda.

Spread disturbing rumors that sound like inside dope.

As leaders, do we participate in office gossip? Consider removing yourself from these situations. As a leader, others expect you to “manage up” the organization and all those in it. If you are participating in gossip, you are not acting like a leader.

Never pass on your skill and experience to a new or less skillful worker.

As leaders, do we seek qualified employees to hire and train or do we keep our skills and knowledge to ourselves? Consider seeking the most qualified employees you can find and teach them what you know. Then, when they advance in the organization, support and encourage their growth.

Be as irritable and quarrelsome as possible without getting yourself into trouble.

As leaders, do we find ways to disagree just for the sake of the argument? Consider finding ways to collaborate with others for the good of the organization.

How does sabotage influence leadership in your organization? Are you the saboteur in your organization?

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Dr. Hampton Hopkins is President of Hopkins Associates
He consults, writes, and speaks about leadership and organizational development
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Articles of Faith: Uncommon Courtesy

I know you have experienced it… road rage, abusive language, people on cell phones everywhere you turn! Many of us lament the state of the world today: we are alienated, hurried, busy, stressed, overworked, sleep-deprived, and media-saturated.

In short, we are discourteous.

Rudeness is everywhere. And we are quick to point out public rudeness when we see. But unfortunately, we are far less likely to notice instances of our own rudeness.

Is society less courteous than 20 or 30 years ago?

Perhaps, but maybe we just accept it more than we did before. Sandra Ford Walston, in her article The Acceptance of Rudeness in the Workplace, suggests that we have become lazy in the practice of courtesy and in so doing we have raised a second generation who are ignorant of these values. While public courtesy may be much harder to spot today, there are some who intentionally seek strength through intimidation and impolite behavior.

In fact, the philosopher, Eric Hoffer, once said

Rudeness is the weak man’s imitation of strength

The natural hierarchy of our organizations provides a fertile ground for those who seek to gain strength through intimidation. Much of our power within organizations comes as we move to the top. And let’s face it… intimidation is a tool to help get us there. But a simple antidote to this intimidation is courtesy – kill them with kindness.

After all, intimidation is not possible within a culture of courtesy.

What is courtesy?

Courtesy is being polite and having good manners. It is a gracious way of speaking and acting that gives others a feeling of being valued and respected. It is greeting and treating others with respect. Uncommon courtesy is a discipline whereby we show unconditional love for everyone, regardless of the environment or culture. As Jesus tells us in Matthew 5:46-47 (NIV)

If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?

What is the value of uncommon courtesy?

Courtesy and politeness are more than arbitrary social rules. Showing respect and giving honor to others is a large part of what makes society work.

We indicate to others, through our courteous nature, our willingness to work with them to accomplish goals – whether sharing the road, our workspace, or the dinner table.

Courtesy, like any other habit, must be practiced if you want to make it a part of who you are.

As Ralph Waldo Emerson said,

Life is short, but there is always time enough for courtesy

Below are two ways to incorporate uncommon courtesy as a spiritual discipline in our lives.

First, we must recognize and reward courtesy. If we give in and continue to allow rudeness, we, by our complacency, are condoning discourteous behavior. However, by recognizing courtesy we are establishing a new value system, especially when we do this in our workplace. Althea DeBrule, in her article Courtesy in the Workplace – Can you Say, Thank You? suggests that we need to demonstrate that we value courtesy and good manners by saying thank you. She goes on to suggest four ways to form a “thank you habit.” While this is just one example of recognizing and rewarding good manners, it is a step towards uncommon courtesy.

Second, we must be intentional in our practice of courtesy. Courtesy is an offshoot of deep moral behavior. It costs nothing but pays well. No one is too big or too busy to practice courtesy. George Washington, arguably one of the greatest figures in the history of the American nation, wrote 110 Rules of Civility and Decent Behavior in Company and Conversation. While a little outdated, these rules reflect something too often missing in our culture today: a focus on others rather than ourselves.

A few of the most poignant rules as related to uncommon courtesy include:

Every action done in company, ought to be with some sign of respect, to those that are present

Use no reproachful language against any one neither curse nor revile

Never express anything unbecoming, nor act against the rules moral before your inferiors

Detract not from others neither be excessive in commanding

Undertake not what you cannot perform but be careful to keep your promise

While these may seem a bit out of place in our world, even the smallest of gestures, done with unconditional love, are acts of uncommon courtesy. Remember the words of author and lawyer Christian Nestell Bovee:

The small courtesies sweeten life, the greater, ennoble it

What can you do to practice courtesy as a spiritual discipline?

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Dr. Hampton Hopkins consults, writes, speaks, and teaches about leadership and organizational development.
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The Pursuit of Happiness

How happy are you at work? How happy are those around you?

There was a recent article from the Associated Press about employee happiness suggesting that we are steadily becoming unhappy at work because we find our work uninteresting, our pay inadequate, and our benefits declining. Gone are the days when an employee works for one or even two companies during a career. Now, the grass always appears greener across the street. The immortal words of my father, and many others of his generation, tell us that we are lucky to have a job and he certainly would agree with Abraham Lincoln’s statement that

Most people are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.

But is this enough for today’s generation of workers? Let’s explore this further.


What does happiness have to do with leadership?

In the article Leadership and the Science of Happiness, Charles Millick suggests the relationship between leadership and happiness is less about making people feel good and more influenced by collaboration, purpose, and worthwhile work. He suggests this may be the new definition of happiness in the workplace. This is not necessarily a new concept as author Jane Galloway Seiling suggested the idea of a new workplace community in her book The Membership Organization. Community is the idea of collaborating with a defined sense of purpose and experiencing the respect this can bring. She suggests

People seek to work in a community where they feel connected to the success and purpose of the organization. In such an organization, employees want to be top performers, participating deeply in the success of a workplace community in which they share ownership of mission and purpose.

But too many of us continue to look for the quick fix to happiness, both in ourselves and for our employees. A simple Google search of “employee happiness and leadership” brings up almost 1.5 million hits… too many to possibly be relevant.


So how is a leader to figure out this dilemma?

Imagine an environment whereby leaders and others work collaboratively, have a shared sense of purpose, and truly feel that what they do is worthwhile and important. Leaders have the responsibility within organizational communities to create just such an environment of collaboration and purpose. This idea was aptly described by Richard Teerlink, former chairman of Harley-Davidson when he said:

“As a leader your key purpose is to create an operating environment where others can do great things.”

How do leaders create this environment? I suggest three characteristics of leading for happiness in the workplace:

• Maintain Perspective •

You have undoubtedly heard the old adage that there are as many theories of leadership as there are leaders. All of us carry with us mental models of leadership whereby each of us has a unique definition of what leadership is and who is a leader. Too often individual definitions get in the way of our understanding and practice of leadership. The constructionist view of leadership suggests that members of a community “construct” their organizational world together and that leadership can happen in a broader capacity and not simply occurring in those who assume the leadership role. The point is that you need to keep yourself in perspective. Marshall Loeb, former managing editor of Fortune and Money magazines said it best:

“Look at any of the great leaders and examine their ascent to leadership, and, with rare exceptions, you can see that the events created the leader, not the other way around.”

• Lead with Humility •

The great philosopher “Dirty Harry” once exclaimed “A man’s got to know his limitations.” Understanding our strengths and limitations requires true humility. In his book Good to Great, Jim Collins discusses many characteristics that distinguish one company from another. One of these characteristics is the Level 5 leader. These leaders are more concerned with the success of the company than with personal success. Such leaders “blend an intense professional will with extreme personal humility.” An example of just such a great leader is Patrick Daniel, President and CEO of Enbridge, who said:

“I have learned through the lives of great leaders that greatness comes from humility and being, at times, self-effacing.”

• Maintain Good Character •

The most effective leaders are almost always the most authentic. The authenticity that comes from good character provides the basis for people to invest a high degree of trust in a leader. It is too easy for leaders to get caught in a trap of arrogance and ego. To manage the power that comes with leadership requires a clear understanding of personal responsibility. One of the fastest ways to undermine your leadership influence is to compromise your integrity. Peter Scotese, retired CEO of Springs Industries said it this way

“Integrity is not a 90 percent thing, not a 95 percent thing; either you have it or you don’t.”

So, how does leadership influence happiness? I would love to hear your thoughts.

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Dr. Hampton Hopkins consults, writes, speaks, and teaches about leadership and organizational development.
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