In our last blog post, we discussed the concept of the Leadership Tent, as introduced by Jack Zenger and Joe Folkman in their book “The Extraordinary Leader”. The Leadership tent is representative of the 5 key areas of effective leadership.  The poles of the tent represent key strengths of the individual leader – personal capabilities, focus on results, leading change, interpersonal skills and the ‘centre pole’ of Character.

Some writers and researchers have argued that leadership is totally about character or integrity. While this view is not agreed upon by all, it is more widely acknowledged that personal character is indeed at the core of all leadership effectiveness, hence Zenger & Folkman allocating it as the centre of the tent.


Here are some of the ways Character gets defined:

  • Making decisions with the organization paramount in their mind, versus allowing a personal agenda to influence decisions
  • Treating others with dignity and respect
  • Keeping commitments that are made
  • Practicing self-development; constantly learning
  • Being approachable by everyone
  • Trusting other people
  • Working collaboratively with others
  • Being receptive to, and specifically asking for, feedback from others
  • Not acting in an arrogant manner toward others
  • Treating everyone the same
  • Being tenacious and not giving up because something is difficult

Leaders who are demonstrating strong character will:

  • Act consistently with their words
  • Follow through on promises and commitments
  • Model the core values
  • Lead by example

While on the other hand, leaders with poor character will commonly:

  • Be threatened by others’ success
  • Make themselves look good at the expense of others
  • Blame failures on others

The ethical standards, integrity, and authenticity of the leader are all extremely important. With a strong personal character the leader is never afraid to be open and transparent. In fact, the more people can see inside, the more highly regarded the leader will be.