This was a happy day! Standing with Pubu and Chen (my Tibetan guide and Chinese driver) at the Everest Base Camp, 18,600 feet above sea level, was a dream come true. After 24 road hours on a track as dangerous as it was beautiful, it’s no wonder the three of us are smiling. We were happy to be alive, and breathing the purest air on the planet.
The trip back to Lhasa was memorable, too. (Chen had promised me on the day we left for The Mountain that he had all four … 4! … spare tires in good running order. Good thing, because before we arrived at the Base Camp we blew two tires. I’m telling you, the road was about as rough as it gets.
So why are we on the side of the the road in the next picture?
Chen had stretched the truth about all the spare tires being in good shape (and I’m being very gracious with the word “stretched”).
We were going nowhere, and I was perturbed. We were about 850 kilometers from Lhasa, with no patch kit and no air pump.
I learned something about character that day. No … some things. And since then I spent hours connecting what I learned to what I love … things having to do with Leadership.
First, when it comes to a team exercise – be it constructing a building, revamping a curriculum, or getting to and from Everest – to borrow a golfing cliche, “it’s not how you drive, it’s how you arrive.” (I’ve driven a golf ball 300 yards, made a decent iron shot close to the pin, and then missed a 12″ putt … so it’s not how you drive, it’s how you arrive.) The start of a project is important, but people will determine the project a success or failure based on its conclusion.
Second, good character is a rare and priceless commodity in our world; leaders having good character are becoming scarce. Today courage, integrity, wisdom, humility, and loyalty is in short supply in leadership (and followership ranks alike). When it comes to leadership, you know and I know: character is more important than charisma 99.9% of the time.
SIDE NOTE: Good character is in short supply among followers as well. Leading a team is challenging enough when everything is moving forward, toward a project goal. But if the leader lacks confidence in his team members, it’s very difficult to reach team objectives without serious stress taking a toll on the leader’s mind and body. When team members’ character is in question, the leader’s job becomes exponentially more burdensome. (I’ll tell you, I was really hesitant to get back in the truck with Chen after he lied to me about the tires.)
That’s why I’m glad the leadership curriculum I’m sharing with the world focuses the first 6 of 12 modules on character development.* (The last 6 modules teach leadership skills, and that’s where most want to start … but choosing to start with the inward workings of a leader is the best time spent.) We must get the character thing right! We have enough charismatic leaders working systems with zero character on this planet … in government, business, and sadly the Church. People serving in every human institution are tired of the hypocrisy, duplicity, and outright dishonesty too many leaders exhibit shamelessly … and it’s hard to see good character increase in the ranks of followers when leaders don’t model it.
*Leadership Training International, or LTI. Visit http://www.ltiworld.org for more information about the teaching materials I’ve alluded to above.