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Greatness of Character Determines The Best Leaders

“Greatness of character powers leadership success more than any other single factor,” says David Lapin, business strategist, rabbi and CEO of Lapin International. 

Through his work and research, he says he has found that the best leaders rely on their stature, not their status, to inspire others.  Working with hundreds of senior executives around the world, he has pinpointed eight key character traits of extraordinary leaders, all of which he says can be learned and developed:

     • Authenticity – Exceptional leaders remain vehemently authentic to their own beliefs and values.
     • Destiny – Great leaders recognize their purpose and destiny in life.
     • Mastery – They master their defensive instincts.
     • Humility – They know they are part of something bigger than themselves.
     • Vulnerability – They admit and confront their own vulnerability.
     • Generosity – They craft environments in which others feel safe to give of themselves.
     • Awareness – They recognize the different lenses through which people experience the world.
     • Wisdom – They trust their inner wisdom and access their greatness to unlock the greatness of others.

He learned what it takes to build leadership skills – the kind that inspire teams, spark innovation and allow companies to thrive – during 20 years of working with businesses worldwide. 

Lapin has come to his understanding of leadership from an unusual perspective – as both a spiritual teacher and as a bottom-line-focused management expert. 

In order to cultivate these traits, Lapin encourages leaders to draw upon their “spiritual fingerprint” – the value drivers that shape their moral and strategic choices.  In Lead by Greatness, he presents the step-by-step method for doing so that he uses with his clients.  He also includes a second process, to help readers pinpoint their “personal purpose.” 

He writes: “All great leaders are infused with a driving sense of higher purpose, a sense of almost divine destiny. It’s not just who you are, but why you are that counts.  In order to inspire others, you must be committed to a purpose larger than yourself.”

Business leaders who live their purpose and personal values are the ones who are able to unlock the door to their organizations’ “corporate soul” – that combination of spirit, personality culture, and values that make a company unique.  This corporate soul, more than anything else, provides true competitive advantage, because it cannot be duplicated by others, Lapin says.

In his book, Lapin provides practical tools, examples and anecdotes from such U.S. companies as Southwest Airlines, Starbucks and Google, and from such overseas businesses as Standard Bank and Truworths International, of South Africa.

In addressing the issue of inspiring and measuring performance, Lapin writes, “Great leaders measure performance numerically all the time, but they never drive performance with numbers; they drive their teams with inspirational vision, a higher sense of purpose, sound business principles, and ethical values.”  He also addresses intangible customer needs and bridging cultural and generational divides.

“Your own greatness is your best, if not your only, tool with which to change the way other people live and act,” Lapin writes.  Cultivating leadership prowess, he says, paves the way for executives and managers to transform their teams and organizations to foster new growth, innovation and competitive advantage. “When a company reflects the passions and the purpose of a great leader, it never needs to compete on price alone.”

Now Lapin is sharing his leadership insights and methods in a book, Lead by Greatness: How Character Can Power Your Success (Avoda Books; March 2012).


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