Leadership 101

simple insights for those in leadership

Tuesday Thoughts :: 04.29.08

John Maxwell says in his book, Developing the Leader Within You, that “Integrity is the factor that determines the daily struggle between what we want to do and what we ought to do.”  Integrity is who we are and who we are not.  It is not just what we do and not just what we say.  Rather, it is what we do and what we say and who we are.  And all of those things need to match up.  When we say that a building has integrity we’re saying that it is structurally sound.  Everything has to fit together just right to make it strong and safe and usable.

How do we know if a person has integrity?  How do we know if they don’t?  While probably several more, I have identified eight signs to look for in a person – and in my life – to determine if integrity is present or if there is a problem of some sort that needs immediate attention and corrective action.  We’ll cover four this week and four next week.

1 :: Being faithful in the little things
It’s in the little stuff that we often find what a person’s made of.  Are there little cracks surfacing anywhere?  It’s the small tasks that we’re responsible for that show whether we are or are not persons of integrity.  If one cannot be trusted with the small, day-to-day, less-than-glamorous tasks, it is highly unlikely that they can be trusted in other areas as well.  The person who is caught telling “little white lies” or stealing paper clips or making personal copies on the copy machine or using company letterhead for personal letters has a character glitch that will likely manifest itself in other, larger, more visible areas.  We’re not just talking about the person who cheats on his taxes or robs the store at gun point but also the person who consistently disregards the speed limits or steals 15 minutes at a time on the front and back ends of the work day.  A person’s character can often be tested in the little, day-to-day stuff that he or she does.  Can you be found faithful in the little things?

2 :: Honesty
Anything less than total truth is not honesty but a lie.  And that includes the omission of truth or information in order to 
make something sound a little better.  G. Raymond Carlson said, “Another aspect of integrity is veracity, a habitful truthfulness.  I place great stock in whether a person’s word is his bond, because if it is, that says something about what is deep within him.”  In Matthew 5:37, Jesus says, “Simply let you ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No.'”  Sounds so simple.  The person who can never give a straight answer or who is always “altering” the truth or who is caught in even little lies displays a cracked character, when that cannot be trusted.

3 :: Modeling
Leaders often find themselves in the position of teacher.  
It comes with the territory I think.  Leaders say many things that they expect their followers to do.  However, it becomes scary when a leader tells his people what top do but doesn’t do the same in his own life.  Leaders with integrity model what they teach and tell others to do.  I am reminded of a time when I came to face-to-face with a decision that called to question my integrity.  About three years ago, I led a group of my high school students on a two-week summer mission trip to a place called “Place of Promise” just outside of Boston, MA.  Several years earlier when we had a group there, my wife befriended one of the residents there who was a recovering addict.  As we were there three years ago, my wife inquired as to how this person was doing.  We were told that Anna was back out on the streets using again.  Completely strung out.  In fact, she was living in a crack house down in one of the very worst parts of Boston.  Place of Promise’s director, Beth, said that she was still in touch with Anna from time to time, often visiting her when she found herself back in prison.  While there with our students on this particular trip, Beth asked my wife is she wanted to visit Anna.  The invitation came with a warning.  Apparently addicts who are strung out on dope don’t like the light, they prefer to live in physical darkness, only coming out at night.  The visit would be late at night, at this crack house, where there would obviously be dealers and users and the types of people that can pose a real threat to a person’s well being.  Beth said the decision was ours as to whether or not my wife wanted to go.  As we prayed about it and talked about it (remembering that our two children were back home – could it be possible that they might never see mommy again?), we realized we only had one choice.  I had been teaching recently at our church and with our students that we were never called by God to live safe lives.  The very essence of faith and trust prohibit a life surrounded by nothing other than safety.  In fact, I would argue that safety is nothing more than a mirage that we buy into.  Anyway, we realized that, after teaching and preaching this for months, that if my wife didn’t go or I didn’t allow her to go because it wasn’t safe, than we needed to go back and apologize for what we were teaching.  God was calling us on the carpet to model what we were teaching.  Integrity was at stake.  My wife did go and did return home about 2:30 in the morning unharmed.  Modeling is part of what leaders must do.  Those who lead who do not model what they teach and say will find cracks in their character.

4 :: Living above reproach
The word “reproach” is one found in some translations of the Bible in discussion qualifications for church leaders.  In essence it means that everything done is done in the open leaving no room for accusations.  In other words, everything a leader does not only has to be right, it also has to look right, leaving no room for anyone to question his or her actions.  The leader who is concerned about living above reproach takes extra measures and are careful, sometimes painstakingly careful, to make sure that nothing they do is questionable.  They take extra steps to make sure that no one could question their dealings with money, the opposite sex, motives for decisions, and the like.  Those leaders who tend to ignore those extra steps, who let the defenses and walls down and go about not worrying about being above reproach usually find themselves in trouble.  The man or woman who does not keep everything he or she does in plain view of the world and begins to do somethings in secret or even with a carefree attitude will likely find the blameless life, the one lived above reproach, eluding them.

Next Tuesday we’ll conclude with four more signposts along the road toward integrity in the leader’s life.

April 29, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Quote of the Day :: 04.28.08

A pastor (or any leader) who is neither an embezzler nor an adulterer tarnishes his name nevertheless by forgotten appointments, rudeness, broken promises, unpaid bills, fitful office hours, fibs, gluttony, disorganization.

– Craig Brian Larson

April 29, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , | 1 Comment