Competence may get you in the door, but character keeps you in the room.
Character is core to who you are as a leader, whether or not people trust you, and your overall effectiveness for the good of others.
Let’s be blunt.
People simply will not follow anyone they don’t trust.
Being really good at what you do is critical, but character is the bottom line for a spiritual leader.
When selecting a leader, there is a temptation to quickly pass over character and focus on competence and chemistry. We all know character matters; however, good character is often simply assumed. That’s a mistake.
It is good to assume the best, but when it comes to leaders, it’s difficult to “fix” a lack of character. The good news is that you can develop good character.
Intuitively, we understand how this works.
Character is something you first “feel” about others.
It’s a personal sense you have about a person.
For example, with a doctor, car salesperson, or public official. You immediately have a gut sense about whether or not you trust them.
That’s how your mind and emotion will first assess a person’s character. Your level of discernment determines how accurate you are, but that doesn’t change how you feel in the moment.
Then character is assessed by behavior, for example:
- Do they keep their promises?
- Do they do what they say they will do?
- Do they do what is in the best interests of others?
- Do they do the difficult thing rather than the easy thing?
- Do they keep their promises?
As leaders, we are responsible for the development of our character and the character that we develop.
(Some of the following content and quotes are from my new book Confident Leader!)
Principles and Practices in Character Development
1) Self-leadership is the foundation of character development.
You can’t lead others well until you can lead yourself well.
Leading yourself well may be about seemingly little things, such as being late for meetings or not following through in returning phone calls or email. Basically, not doing what you say you will do. It can, of course, escalate to much more significant issues such as inappropriate emotions or an overt need for control and authority.
The people who attend your church are not looking for a superhero to lead them; they’re looking for someone they can count on.
People want a leader who can consistently show up and do the right thing. The expectation is not one of a perfect leader; it’s of a leader whose self-leadership is worth following.
The bottom line is that a lack of competence can slow you down, but a lack of character can take you out.
If you lack skill, you can improve; if you lack character, you are destined for a fall.
2) Consistency is the real secret to character development.
Consistency, unfortunately, is often thought of as boring, inflexible, or lacking creativity.
Consistency, however, is not meant to reflect a lack of drive, unwillingness to risk, or stirring things up when needed.
Consistency is a core character trait, not a measurement of competence.
Consistency is about keeping your promises and doing what you say you will do; that’s character.
Consistency allows people to approach you not because your emotions are flat but because you are a safe person to talk to, and you can be counted on.
Consistency is a primary avenue to trust.
Consistency can best be developed in three areas: your habits, emotions, and your words.
Consistency in good habits.
As it relates to the development of consistent good habits, the majority of your effort and energy needs to be devoted to the development of good habits.
That seems obvious.
However, it’s scary what a few bad habits can do to a long list of good ones.
So start with an honest assessment of any bad habits you have and work to eliminate them by replacing them with good habits.
Most of us know our bad habits, but we all have blind spots, so you may want to ask a trusted friend to help you see what you can’t see.
If you fight to eliminate a bad habit without replacing it with a good one, your potential for success is limited.
Please don’t miss this next thought.
Don’t allow the pursuit of good habits to become a pursuit of perfection. That will backfire on you.
If you slip up, OK. Recognize it, and tomorrow is another day to do better.
And don’t make the practice of good habits a legalistic lifestyle. If you want a donut one day, have one. Having a donut one day is different than having a daily donut.
What bad habits do you want to eliminate?
What good ones do you want to become consistent in?
Recommended book: Atomic Habits, by James Clear.
Consistency in your emotions.
No one wants to follow a leader if they have to walk on eggshells wondering what mood they will be in that day!
God gave us the emotions we experience; they are part of our design as human beings. For a few examples, they are emotions such as fear, joy, anger, loneliness, compassion, and love.
How you handle your emotions can make or break your leadership.
Emotions have a place and purpose, and when demonstrated in appropriate ways at the right times, they add depth and meaning to your life and strength to your leadership.
When emotions are mishandled, depending on the circumstances, those moments can be difficult to recover from.
Consistency in your emotions does not mean a boring, lifeless person. Not at all.
Consistency in emotions means one who is self-aware and possesses the fullness of the fruit of the spirit (including self-control) that brings a healthy balance to the mix.
If the topic of leading your emotions rather than letting them lead you is of interest, here’s an entire blog post I wrote (it went viral) that may be helpful to you.
Consistency in uplifting and encouraging words.
Our choice of words on a daily basis seems like it ought to be the easiest of these three to be consistent.
But the book of James reminds us how easy it is to have a slip of the tongue and how much damage such a small part of our body can do. James 3:3-12
Whether with your spouse, kids, or those you lead, we’ve all spoken words we wish we could take back. It only takes a few seconds.
There is good news. There are other, better, and more redemptive words that help repair the damage of ill-spoken words, like the words in a sincere apology.
It’s amazing how much good the two little words, “I’m sorry” can do.
The best way to overcome speaking words that hurt and destroy relationships is to practice your consistency, from a heart level, on words that:
- Carry honesty
- Add value
- Honor others
- Bring hope
Increasing your consistency in these three practices will greatly strengthen your character resulting in greater trust and increased influence.
22 thoughts on “Why Your Character is Crucial, and How to Develop It”
Good read. I like it and found it relevant. God bless you!
Glad it is relevant to you! Blessings!
Consistency is a primary avenue to trust…so good. Unpredictability keeps others a bay. It’s impossible to come up close to an inconsistent person. This was such an affirmation of things I sense and haven’t really put to words. It’s ironic that we crave or even expect “emotion” in our pastor but that balance of maturity is everything. So good. Thank you for being so thorough and practical with this study of character. I so hope it’s not only leaders…but their followers…who read your blog. Grateful for your wisdom.
Thank you Janene!
I appreciate your thoughtful comments, and I appreciate you!
A friend of mine once said, “People know you by the little things you do.” While I was in college I had the privilege of being hired by a man who was very competent in what he did. As I got to know him I also realized he was a very competent Christian too. As we worked together he made comments to me that lifted me up and helped me to see how God made me. He was the kind of person who motivated me to learn more and so I was always pressing him to teach me. There were opportunities for me to see how he dealt with mistakes. Shortly before I graduated from college he told me I should go into business for myself. My first thoughts were about all the tings I didn’t have. He assured me he would help me. Shortly before I graduated from college the market crashed in what I had studied. So I made the decision to continue on in business. Often people comment about the work I do and when they do I am reminded of the man who taught me not only the business and work, but how to live as a godly man. As I look back I am humbled by how God has been gracious to me by giving me some amazing opportunities to learn from godly men. When the man died there was about twice as many people at the funeral than the church held. He has provided me a lifetime of encouragement of how God can use one man to influence so many.
Great story to illustrate character… thank you.
Thank u so much for what I read. I needed this reading this morning. It’s true “the harvest is plentiful ,b but the laborers r few “. God is wonderful, and I thank him for one of his harvest gatherers. May God continue to use u, and I keep reading and growing in spiritual growth.💕🦋🌺🌸Adele
You are most welcome Adele.
Blessings and thank you for sharing your comments.
Such a good article as always. Thank you
You’re welcome Brian and thank you for the kind words.
You are welcome Howard!
Glad you found this to be worth reading!
Thank you for always pouring out what God pours into you.
You bring salt and light to this unpsidedown backwards world we’re passing through. Truly providing food for the soul and glorifying God.
Very kind Robin, thank you. So glad its helpful.
I want to get stronger with this Multiply sclerosis that I deal with pain, unable to walk I have no balance
I pray the Lord gives you strength.
Your ministry as a pastor’s coach is such a blessing to me. This one really helped me and I will use it to help others.
I’m so glad I can contribute, even in a small way, to your leadership and ministry!
Blessings to you Pastor Jeff.
This has cast a great light to my heart with understanding.
The entrance of the word give light and understanding to the simple.
Bring it on.
Thanks for your comments Philip!’