You’ve heard about the Titanic, the ship that “not even God could sink.” Maybe God couldn’t sink it, but an iceberg sure did. The ship’s operator had received multiple warnings to “look out for icebergs,” and after the 6th warning he even shot back, “Shut up! I’m busy!” Perhaps he thought they didn’t look big enough to damage his huge ship, yet he forgot one important fact: 90% of an iceberg lies below the surface.
What a powerful metaphor for leadership. Dr. Tim Elmore, author of Habitudes, likens the 10% of an iceberg above the water to our skills and the 90% of the iceberg below the surface to our character. Though unseen, our character is much bigger and has greater potential to wreak havoc. How many coaches are “too busy” honing their skills to heed warnings about character flaws that can sink their ship?
You must develop leadership skills, but to do so at the expense of your character will eventually lead to failure because who you are under the surface is what really matters. “Be more concerned with your character than your reputation,” John Wooden once said, “because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are.”
Dr. Elmore describes three areas that comprise our character:
Self-discipline: the ability to do what’s right even if you don’t feel like it. You preach this concept to your athletes, urging them to bypass their feelings and do what’s right because it’s the right thing to do. How does this apply to you, Coach? What parts of the job do you sometimes not feel like doing? Fundraisers? Paperwork? How can you grow in self-discipline?
Core values: principles you live by that enable you to take a moral stand. Successful leaders earn respect by living principle-centered lives. They identify meaningful values and align their actions and words accordingly, resulting in steady, consistent leadership that people want to follow. What are the 3-5 values that guide your life?
Emotional security: the ability to be emotionally stable and consistent. Managing your emotions is more crucial than ever in this technological age where a coach’s outburst can be seen worldwide via YouTube in a matter of minutes. Recent research shows that your emotional intelligence determines your success in life better than your IQ.
How’s Your Character?
Rate yourself on a scale of 1-10 in these three areas (10 being highest). Which area of your character needs work? What warning signs are you ignoring? What steps will you take to get 1-2 points better?
As the unseen part of an iceberg supports the tip, so your character will strongly support the use of your leadership skills. Just remember to pay attention to what’s beneath the surface.