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Leaders Must Put Character At The Center Of Everything They Do


“How you show up, what you stand for, and what actions you take to that end—as an individual and as a leader in your organization—are now gating factors to lasting success,” explains Frank Calderoni in his new book, UPSTANDING: How Company Character Catalyzes Loyalty, Agility, and Hypergrowth. He adds that 2020 was the moment of truth for character, and building an upstanding company character is what will drive long-lasting success. 

Calderoni explains that leaders must put character at the center of everything they do, and he explains that company culture is distinct from company character. He explains that: 

Company culture is the system of beliefs, values, goals, behaviors, and the way employees feel working in the organization—from leadership style, decision-making norms, customer experience, and company policies—officially and unofficially. Essentially, it’s the personality of the organization. 

Company character is the integrity, respect, and fortitude residing at the core of your culture. It is the basis of trust and emotional connection people have with your organization—measured by the distance between what you say and what you do. It is earned  as much as it is defined. 

Calderoni’s book teaches you how company character catalyzes loyalty, agility and hypergrowth. He provides you proven techniques, workshop processes, real-world case studies and examples and insightful observations from business leaders and his own career – which includes 20 years as an executive at IBM and CFO positions at Cisco and Red Hat. Currently, he is  the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Anaplan, a cloud-native SaaS Company that helps enterprises orchestrate business performance. 

More specifically, the book will teach you how to: 

  • Hire and evaluate talent for character
  • Involve employees in identifying the company’s values so they co-create them
  • Put character at the center of every decision
  • Follow through on convictions
  • Answer the call in challenging times
  • Eliminate or reduce unconscious bias
  • Measure employees’ sense of belonging
  • Invest in career opportunities for underrepresented people
  • Decide how to face the ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance) issues that will test your company’s character

In short, Upstanding shows you how to be a modern leader in today’s new normal. It’s an incredibly timely read and one to add to your must-read books list for leaders. 

Today, Calderoni shares these additional insights about his new book.

Frank A. Calderoni

Question: What inspired you to write your book? 

Calderoni: I’ve always wanted to share a business strategy that I’m passionate about, creating corporate character. As I mentioned, when the pandemic hit, followed by a global recession and social unrest, it resulted in an unprecedented amount of change, disruption, and reflection for companies. 

This highlighted a cultural shift that’s taking place in society – it was time for leadership to pay attention and an opportunity to make a difference. 

I wrote the book to share my insights and from those who I admire and respect. There is a significant shift happening in leadership, and it’s up to all of us to be that leader for our organization. 

Question: Why do we hear so much about company culture and so little about company character? 

Calderoni: Historically, companies and the media focused on culture. There are several books, Built to Last, comes to mind, and lists such as Fortune's 100 Best Companies to Work For, that praised company culture. 

When it came to Environmental, Social, and Governance topics - companies tended to stay silent. In part to not offend stakeholders in their ecosystem. Back when I started working, driving social change was not part of the corporate agenda.  

However, the events during the pandemic, Black Lives Matter, Stop Asian Hate, and other social issues have forced companies off the sidelines, in part because governments are not doing enough to address these issues. In addition, our stakeholders: employees, customers, even investors, are paying attention to what we're saying and doing. So, not taking a position is being seen as not caring about the issue.  

Going forward, I believe you're going to see company character become more and more critical, and companies will not only pay lip service to these issues but create policies that drive change. The ones that do this best will have the most loyal customers, attract the best people, and I believe will have the most success. 

Question: What are a few best next steps for a business leader interested in creating a character-led culture? 

Calderoni: If you aren’t sure how to begin, start by understanding your purpose. If you don’t know it or don’t have one, work with others to create one. Use your desired customer experience as your North Star. 

Spend time figuring out your values and how they support your purpose. To build commitment, involve your employees early in this process. If you already have values, help connect the dots to your (and your team’s) work. 

Finally, and most importantly, behaviors and decisions reflect character. Strive to be a role model for the culture you want to create. 

Thank you to the book’s publisher for sending me an advance copy of the book.


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