Leadership 101

simple insights for those in leadership

Tuesday Thoughts :: 04.22.08

There are many aspects to leadership that must be mastered if one is to lead well.  Some of those come naturally to some while others need to develop such traits.  One such characteristic of a great leader is integrity.  In fact, I would argue that integrity is the most crucial measuring stick of leadership.  Unlike some other areas of leadership that we can “grow” in, integrity is one of those things you either have or do not have.  We choose whether or not integrity will be a part of our lives and our leadership.  Leadership guru, John Maxwell says that “Sadly, integrity is a vanishing commodity today.”  All we need to do is look around us over the past couple of decades to see what becomes of a leader who lacks integrity.  As one who was in high school and college in the ’80s, the stories and images of Jimmy Swaggart and Jim Baker and their indiscretions left a permanent mark.  These were Christian men who publicly preached and claimed to be one thing but privately lived very different lives.  Their respective scandals of sexual indiscretion and financial games brought both men down.  And they fell a long way.  In more recent years it is hard to forget former President Bill Clinton’s scandal, the Enron debacle, or recent President of the National Evangelical Association Ted Haggard’s screw-up .  To think that these events and others stand in isolation and effect only the individuals involved is fantasy.  A leader’s lack of integrity has profound effect on the entire organization, those impacted by the organization, a nation, even a generation.  

Author of the book, A New Kind of Youth Ministry, Chris Folmsbee, speaks to the reality of leadership as seen through the eyes of this generation of students.

I think the word leader makes most teenagers shake and shiver.  And I think their fear is based less in their presuppositions about what leadership is than in a distrust and skepticism spawned by their own wounds.  By the time most children reach adolescence, they have often had the unfortunate and tragic experience of learning that key leaders in their own lives are not, in fact, at all the people they have claimed to be. . . . many youth distrusts almost anyone who claims to be an authority or leader – for good reason.  They live in an age where many people in positions of authority and leadership in the church and in our world (parents, pastors, youth pastors, presidents, teachers, etc.) have not exactly been model citizens with a commitment to morality and justice.  The very public nature of the failings of our leaders has shaped this generation like none before it.  Most of these young people are very wary of anyone who claims to be a leader – or who tells them they need to become leaders.  I don’t think one needs to be a sociologist to grasp this common trend among the emerging generations.”

If leaders are to regain trust and respect from people, thus enabling them to really lead, a new focus on being a leader of integrity has to be the foundation. Integrity must be woven through the very fabric of a leader’s being if he or she is to truly lead well.

Over the next few weeks on Tuesdays, I want to spend some more time developing this idea of integrity and what it looks like in the leader’s life.  But as I conclude today’s thoughts, I leave us with this story found in R.C. Sproul’s book, Objections Answered.

There was a young Jewish boy who grew up in Germany many years ago.  The lad had a profound sense of admiration for his father, who saw to it that the life of the family revolved around the religious practices of their faith.  The father led them to the synagogue faithfully.

In his teen year’s, however, the boy’s family was forced to move to another town in Germany.  This town had no synagogue, only a Lutheran church.  The life of the community revolved around the Lutheran church; all the best people belonged to it.  Suddenly, the father announced to the family that they were going to abandon their Jewish traditions and join the Lutheran church.  When the stunned family asked why, the father explained that it would be good for business.  The youngster was bewildered and confused.  His deep disappointment soon gave way to anger and a kind of intense bitterness that plagued him throughout his life.

Later he left Germany and went to England to study.  Each day found him at the British Museum formulating his ideas and composing a book.  In that book he introduced a whole new worldview and conceived a movement that was designed to change the world.  He described religion as the “opiate for the masses.”  He committed the people who followed him to life without God.  His ideas became the norm for the governments of almost half the world’s people.  His name?  Karl Marx, founder of the Communist movement.  The history of the twentieth century, and perhaps beyond, was significantly affected because one father let his values become distorted.

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April 22, 2008 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , ,

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