The hostility of the crowd was almost palpable. The room was filled with scowls and angry mutters that escalated into full out boos and hisses as the congressman took the stage. His stomach turned as he approached the middle of the platform, and he took hold of the podium with both hands to still their shaking.
Public speaking had never been one of his greater strengths, but it came with the territory. At this moment, this night, he’d rather be anywhere else. But as he faced the audience and began to speak, his mind cleared and his voice grew stronger with every word, resonating throughout the room and quieting the crowd.
Calmly, carefully, he explained his decision and his actions. Borrowing from philosopher Edmund Burke, he said, “Your representative owes you not only his industry, but his judgment; and he betrays, instead of serving you, if he sacrifices his judgment to your opinion.” He went on to say, “I voted from conviction, not out of intimidation or fear… but because of a feeling deep down in my heart that this was the right thing for me to do.”
As he explained the personal conviction behind his decision, neither apologizing nor making excuses, the atmosphere in the room slowly began to relax. Scowls began to fade and clenched jaws loosened. People began nodding their heads. When his speech came to a close and the congressman walked away from the podium, he did so not to the boos of the crowd, but to resounding applause.
That night marked one of the most dramatic events of George H. W. Bush’s political career. The fair housing bill of 1968 was a piece of legislation enveloped in racial tension, and voting in its favor infuriated many of Congressman Bush’s Texas constituents. It was not an easy decision for any political figure to make, but it was one that demonstrated Bush’s steadfast strength of character.
Leaders with strength of character and integrity make decisions based on personal conviction rather than popular opinion. Acting with a solid sense of purpose, they do what they think is right because it is right, not because it’s easy, convenient, or personally beneficial. Firm in their decisions, these leaders are steadfast, staying the course under fire and rarely giving up, no matter the personal cost.
Leaders with strength of character and integrity value honesty, commitment, and trustworthiness, and through their actions they inspire trust and loyalty in those whom they lead.
How about you, are you a leader strong in character and integrity? How can you improve and leverage your own strengths in order to become a person whose leadership is marked by strength of character and integrity? By focusing on improving and applying your leadership strengths, you can become an even more effective leader who:
- Bases decisions on personal conviction
- Acts with a solid sense of purpose
- Is steadfast in the face of adversity or opposition
- Values honesty, commitment, and trustworthiness
This is the second in a series of eight articles highlighting important leadership strengths demonstrated by some of the world’s most powerful and influential leaders—former United States Presidents. I feature these same strengths in my inspirational presentation, Presidential Leadership, designed to encourage and equip participants to identify, leverage, and apply their own leadership strengths. Please stay tuned as we look at six more areas of leadership strengths in the weeks to come!
Copyright © 2013 by Dan Nielsen – www.dannielsen.com
National Institute for Healthcare Leadership – www.nihcl.com
America’s Healthcare Leaders – www.americashealthcareleaders.com
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