Character-Based LeaderWorking with 21 other leaders can present a set of challenges. However, a clear purpose serves as a rallying point, aligning activities and personalities. This is what happened when writing “The Character-Based Leader” book.

It is as Margaret Mead once said:

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, concerned citizens can change world. Indeed it is the only thing that ever has.”

Susan Mazza is one of these citizens out to change the world as a co-author of this leadership book. We started this interview discussing the role of integrity in leading. In this final part, I asked her about her experiences in working with so many leaders to produce a specific result.

What was it like working with 20 other authors? What role did character-based leadership skills play in working with so many different people?

Mazza:  It was both immensely rewarding, as well as challenging. This really was a self-organizing team. No one was “in charge,” yet different people naturally took the lead at different times.

It was kind of like what happens when a flock of geese are flying in formation – the one in the lead keeps changing. If someone didn’t choose to be involved in any more than submitting their chapter, that was okay. We realized early on that the only real promise any of the authors made was to submit their chapter and pay for their share of the costs of producing the book. Beyond that, it was up to those who had the interest, skills and bandwidth to step up.

Thinking back on the journey I think there were three practices that emerged through Mike Henry’s leadership and the character of the authors that helped us deliver a book we can take pride in:

Practice 1:   If it’s important to me, then it’s up to me to step up and own it. There is no “them” – no staff (or elves) that are going to deliver on your great idea so if you want it to happen then it’s up to you to step up.

Practice 2:   If I want people to take action I have to ask for what I need without expectation. This means you have to give people a choice and be willing accept “no” as an acceptable response. We are all free agents so operating from expectations regarding what others “should” do is a recipe for frustration.

Practice 3:  When I say I will do or own something, follow through because people are really counting on me. Overall, I think the authors did a stellar job in honoring their commitments. It wasn’t that things didn’t slip on occasion, but somehow what really mattered got done.

Personally, whenever I was taking the lead I felt empowered and supported by my fellow authors and for that I am truly grateful.

It took longer than we hoped or expected. At times it was a bumpy, frustrating and tiring journey. There were both setbacks and triumphs. But nothing truly worthwhile ever comes easy.

I am grateful for all I learned from the professionalism, character, wisdom and talents of my fellow authors, the opportunity to grow as a leader among people who I respect and admire, and most of all for the lifelong friendships I have formed. And it is great to be able to finally hold a finished book in my hands!

About Susan Mazza. Susan is the managing partner and president of Clarus Consulting Group and has worked with organizations and leaders for over 20 years to substantially improve the performance of their people and their organizations. Her blog is Random Acts of Leadership and follow Susan on Twitter @susanmazza.

Check out “The Character-Based Leader” and read the first part of our interview – How to Be a Character-Based Leader. A special thanks to Susan Mazza for her time and great work!

Add your voice.

When working with other leaders, what key practices would you add?