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Why The Smartest Leaders Move Way Beyond Their To-Do List To Tackle This

To Be List

I love productivity. I love accomplishment even more.

In fact, I even have a course that will help you accomplish far more in less time.

But the longer I live and lead, the more I realize that you can accomplish all the tasks you set out to accomplish in a day or even over the course of your life, and still completely miss the point.

The news is littered with stories of leaders who were at the top of their game skill-wise, but who aren’t in leadership anymore, not because they weren’t smart, not because they weren’t skilled (some were arguably the best in their field), but because their character didn’t match their competency.

Here’s the truth for all of us: Competency gets you in the room. Character keeps you in the room.

Here are four reasons the best leaders move beyond their to-do lists.

Competency gets you in the room. Character keeps you in the room. Click To Tweet

1. Your Real Capacity Isn’t Determined By Your Skill

Think about it: you have to have some level of competency to get hired. And competency is a huge asset, which is why so many driven people get a college degree, read books, take additional courses, listen to podcasts, attend conferences, find mentors and hire coaches. It’s awesome to grow your skillset, and that keeps you sharp.

But over time, the thing that keeps you in the room is your character.  All of us can think of highly gifted and skilled athletes, politicians, business leaders and pastors whose character led to either a moral lapse that disqualified them from leadership, or who were just so difficult that nobody wanted to work with them anymore.

Which is why your character, not your competency, ultimately determines your capacity.

You character, not your competency, ultimately determines your capacity. Click To Tweet

2. Nobody Will Ever Pay You To Work On the Most Important Things

So what’s the problem? It’s easy to agree with everything written in this post so far and say to yourself of course that makes sense. 

But…here’s the challenge when it comes to your career.

Nobody is going to ever pay you to work on your character. They’ll just fire you if you don’t. 

The same is also true in your life. Think about it.

Nobody is ever going to pay you to work on your character. They’ll just leave you if you don’t. 

The truth isn’t pretty, but this is how divorce happens, how families fall apart, how kids end up disliking their parents and parents end up resenting their kids. It’s how you find yourself without many friends.

I know…I’ll stop now.

But you get the point, right?

The only way to really work on your character is to decide you’re responsible for developing it.

Nobody is going to ever pay you to work on your character. They'll just fire you if you don't. Click To Tweet

3. Your Family Isn’t Impressed By Your Latest Results

If you’re like me, you’re driven by results. That isn’t always good, but often for leaders, it’s true.

But here’s what’s more deeply true: your family doesn’t care about your latest quarter or how many times your talks were downloaded. 

I’ve done my share of funerals over the years, and I promise you no son ever pulls out his father’s resume at his dad’s funeral. When it comes to the people closest to you, your character is your legacy. 

Your family may not care about your latest results, but they will remember whether you made time for them, or whether you didn’t. They’ll remember who you really were when no one else was watching. They’ll remember how they felt around you, and whether you were kind, patient and loving.

No son ever pulls out his father’s resume at his dad’s funeral. When it comes to the people closest to you, your character is your legacy. Click To Tweet

4. The People Closest To You Should Be the People Most Grateful For You

Those of us in leadership face an interesting dilemma. It is more than possible to get people who barely know you to really like you.

Social media makes that even easier. It’s never been more possible to draw a crowd or even become a mini-celebrity with a fan base.

But too often leaders will substitute the adoration of a distant crowd for the love of the people closest to them.

But what does it matter if some Instagram follower in Calfornia thinks you’re amazing if your wife and kids think you’re a jerk?

What does it matter if some Instagram follower in Calfornia thinks you're amazing if your wife and kids think you're a jerk? Click To Tweet

Way too many people convince themselves that public adoration is more important than private integrity.

As my own audience has grown far beyond anything I dreamed it would, I’ve doubled down on this resolve: I want to live in a way that the people closest to become the people most grateful for me.

The goal isn’t that they’ll be thankful for me. The goal is that I would live in a way (with the kind of character) that makes that possible.

It is far to easy to try to impress people who don’t know you and will never meet you at the expense of an inner circle who does know you but no longer likes you because of who you’ve become.

Way too many people convince themselves that public adoration is more important than private integrity. Live in a way that the people closest to you to become the people most grateful for you Click To Tweet

So…How?

So the real question is, how do you do this?

How do you make sure your life doesn’t get swallowed by so many to-dos that you forget who to be?

The answer (at least for me): work twice as hard on your character as you do on your competency. 

Your competency leaves the first impression, but your character leaves a lasting impression.

I’ve created a new (free) resource that can help you develop your character.

Work twice as hard on your character as you do on your competency. Your competency leaves the first impression, but your character leaves a lasting impression. Click To Tweet

5 Habits I Use To Build Better Character

I have a new short video series where I share five habits that have helped me work on my character, covering everything from my morning routine to how to avoid moral compromise on the road when you’re away from your family and the people you care about. 

These 5 habits are designed to help you build better character that will help shape your legacy. 

The 5 habits are: 

  1. An Intentional Morning/Evening Routine
  2. Scheduled Rest
  3. Password Sharing
  4. Monitoring Your Public Talk
  5. Rules for the Road

I would love to send you these 5 videos (for free).

You can sign up to receive them here!

13 Comments

  1. shia on October 5, 2019 at 8:17 am

    good article

  2. shia on October 5, 2019 at 8:16 am

    good article

  3. PAUL A MANGOLD on September 25, 2019 at 12:31 pm

    Fantastic article!

    • Carey Nieuwhof on September 26, 2019 at 9:49 am

      Thank you!

  4. Marcin on September 19, 2019 at 8:22 am

    In fact, to-do-list isn’t your time manager. It’s only a tool that wants to help to manage things that should be done on a given period (day, few days, week, month etc.). Without specific personality trait and habits, you can’t be a lord of time. I agree with #2. Sometimes I hard to include little “underdog” tasks on to-do-list because we think and accomplish them intuitively.

  5. Aleksis AMIN on September 9, 2019 at 12:12 pm

    Thank you Carey. This is such an important reminder. It is so easy to slip into performance mode rather than the becoming mode. Thank you so much for your ministry.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on September 9, 2019 at 3:31 pm

      Glad to help!

  6. Sherman Barnette on September 9, 2019 at 10:15 am

    Carey,

    Man this is rich!

    Thank You

    • Carey Nieuwhof on September 9, 2019 at 3:44 pm

      Thank you!

  7. Greg Wilson on September 9, 2019 at 9:48 am

    Great article … our character is truly our legacy. Did I take time for my family and those close to me? What was I like when no one was watching? Was I kind, patient, and loving? I love the admonition, “Work twice as hard on your character than your competency.”

    • Carey Nieuwhof on September 9, 2019 at 3:44 pm

      You get it!

      Thanks for the kind words.

      Carey

  8. Betty Jones on September 9, 2019 at 9:44 am

    Everything you have listed since I found you I have saved.
    They are all important and I will read them many times.
    You have been such a help to me even though what God has called me to has not as yet as yet happened, but I know he’s working on it now and beginning to open doors as a newbie I need all the help I can get and I greatly appreciate The lessons I have picked up on your website. Thank you ever so much Betty Jones, Saulsberry Maryland

    • Carey Nieuwhof on September 9, 2019 at 3:45 pm

      So glad to help Betty!

      Carey

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