Good character is the indispensable quality of leadership.
Whoever walks in integrity walks securely, but whoever takes crooked paths will be found out.
It doesn’t matter how intelligent, talented or successful a leader is, if they lack integrity, over time they will lose influence. In fact, one of the fastest ways for a person to lose influence is when their talent rises above their character.
When we talk about character, we very quickly come to the issue of trust. People don’t follow leaders they don’t trust, at least not for long. Good character doesn’t mean you don’t make mistakes, but it does mean people can trust your heart.
Good character doesn’t imply perfection. You don’t have to be perfect to be trustworthy. The passage where the Lord speaks to Solomon offers us helpful insight.
4 “As for you, if you walk before me faithfully with integrity of heart and uprightness, as David your father did, and do all I command and observe my decrees and laws, 5 I will establish your royal throne over Israel forever, as I promised David your father when I said, ‘You shall never fail to have a successor on the throne of Israel.’
I Kings 9:4-5
We know David was human, he was not perfect, but he possessed integrity of heart. Good character leaves room for human imperfection, but not a consistent pattern of dishonesty, putting self before others, and the lack of confession and a contrite heart.
Seven practical indicators of good character that help you live above reproach:
1) You live by the same standards that you expect of others.
When leaders are under pressure, short on time, and face many demands, temptation can increase. One of those temptations is to cut corners and lower standards; this will quickly erode character.
Good character requires that you personally practice the same lifestyle that you expect of others.
2) What you do when no one is looking is pleasing to God.
A person’s character is never any better than their secrets. Secrets slowly eat at your soul, erode character, and in time are discovered.
On the positive side, your character is developed when you intentionally live to please God in the moments when He is the only one who sees and knows.
3) Those who know you best trust you the most.
One of the greatest compliments to your character comes from family and close friends who see you close up. For example, my wife’s opinion of my character is of upmost importance to me. She knows me better than anyone else. If she fully trusts me and is proud of my integrity, I know I’m on the right track.
4) You keep your promises.
A leader’s word is his or her bond. It’s critical that you do what you say you will do. It doesn’t matter if it’s something as simple as returning a phone call, or something big like being at a special event for one of your kids.
5) You are fiercely committed to honesty.
Everyone is tempted to exaggerate, omit a part of the story, or perhaps even tell a lie. But that can never be an excuse for a leader to drop his or her standards in truth-telling.
The potential for dishonesty is part of our sin nature; therefore we must intentionally practice truth-telling with incredible diligence. I recommend that you allow a prayer or accountability partner access to your life so that you can stay current in your commitment to honesty.
6) Your heart is tender to the prompts of the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit will guide you in the moment, and nothing is too small when it comes to character development. The problem with disobedience, even in “little” things, is that it slowly callouses your heart. Over time, you become less receptive to those prompts.
The prompt might be a nudge about kindness to your spouse, or generosity to someone in need, or speaking the truth in love to a staff member. It might be cleaning up some gossip, or spending the time in prayer that people think you do.
The point is to see those prompts as a gift from God and act upon them to the best of your ability.
7) You are dependent upon God for strength where you are weak.
Good character is not a legalistic or pharisaic practice. When it comes to character, grace did not evaporate. God knows we all have places where we are weak and need strength. We need God’s help.
Your dependence upon God rather than reliance upon yourself and your strength is the difference maker. You are required to exercise discipline, willpower and personal fortitude, but God’s power is available to help you! Ask!