Over recent years, the society-wide discussion around character, integrity and trust has become, in many ways, the new ‘lightning rod’ in leadership circles.
It doesn’t take much reading of scripture to conclude that character is a central theme in both testaments and summarized superbly in 1 Timothy 3:1-10. It is interesting to note that this passage says very little about gifts and ministry skills - rather emphasises a leaders character in the church and in the home. Personally I like to think of character and integrity as “truth in the inwards parts”. As Psalm 51:6 says, “Surely you desire truth in the inner parts, you teach me wisdom in the inmost place.”
Kouzes and Posner1 describe good character and emphasise that “Credibility is the foundation of leadership. Period.”
When working on your character...
- Do what You Say You Will Do. When it comes to deciding whether a leader is believable, people first listen to the words,then they watch the actions. They listen to the talk, and then they watch the walk.
- Watch out for “Image Makeovers”. It can be easy to create the ‘image’ of a leader. Image is skin thin! Character on the other hand is about the quality of a person’s heart. It is the personal commitment to live by biblical values - the courage and determination to do what is right, no matter what the cost. Leaders who pay attention to their inner worlds will last the distance.
- Admit mistakes. We all make them. Why then is ‘sorry’ such a difficult word to say? The truth is, admitting a mistake is often hard, especially when you’re leading. Yet admitting your mistakes communicates a profound message about your basic integrity as a leader.
- Endure Hardship. Paul urged Timothy to endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ (1 Timothy 6:12). Leading a local church is as challenging as it’s ever been - with setbacks, disappointments, and hardships being part of the deal. Leaders of strong character will seize these occasions and learn valuable lessons that can only come in the hard times. Wise leaders allow these occasions to shape and further strengthen their character.
“When wealth is lost, nothing is lost.
When health is lost, something is lost.
When character is lost everything is lost.”
- Billy Graham
Alan is the Co-ordinator for the Executive Leadership programme at Vision College and consults in Organisational Development.
1. Kouzes and Posner - The Leadership Challenge, John Wiley and Sons, 2007