Real Leaders

Character — It’s What Matters Most

“Character, in the long run, is the decisive factor in the life of an individual and of nations alike. ” —Theodore Roosevelt


By Julie Van Ness


What’s your definition of a real leader?

That’s the question that we have asked global business leaders on our Real Leaders Podcast and in our magazine for over a decade. The answers have been insightful, and most share this winning combination: (1) the importance of caring for something greater than themselves, (2) the willingness to do the work necessary to achieve a positive outcome for the greater good, and (3) doing it in a financially sustainable and scalable way. 

In our sixth annual Real Leaders of Impact Investing edition, you’ll discover some of the top impact investors in the world and how they choose who, what, and when they invest (p. 56).

You’ll also discover our exclusive interview with impact investing pioneer Jacqueline Novogratz, CEO of Acumen, who talks about the importance of cultivating moral imagination, avoiding the conformity trap, and practicing courage (p. 48): “The world continues in the short-term to reward the shiny, but in the long-term, it pays off on character.”

The key to being a successful impact investor is the ability to invest in a leader who is likely to perform long-term. This ability to qualify a leader is important to all of us as we choose whom we want to work for, hire, and represent us in organizations and government.

The most articulate salesperson may shine in short pitches but cannot withstand the scrutiny of closer due diligence.

We’re reminded of the old saying that if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Do I trust this person? What does their past tell me about them? What is their litigation or bankruptcy history? Have they been successful in something comparable before? How resilient are they? What is their reputation? Would I be happy working for them? These are the kinds of questions that help us to determine one’s character and values, and character is ultimately what matters the most. 

Investors often lose money when they become enamored with the product or service but overlook the questionable character and reputation of the leader. Many of us have made this mistake in personal or business relationships, but when the stakes are high, mistakes can be devastating. 

Today, I pose this question to you: What’s your definition of a real leader? Think carefully about your response, as your description can serve as a guiding light when selecting leaders for your own life and for our world.

You can access the latest Real Leaders Magazine on shelves or on Real Leaders Website July 1.

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