Essential leadership characteristics: Integrity

Leadership is something that most people aspire to in some regards. They see themselves leading organisations into success. Perhaps leading a ministry or church to have a greater impact in the city that they are positioned. However if we are to look at how leadership at its core we see that most people are in some form of leadership. Whether you are leading your family as a stay at home parent or leading a junior soccer team as their coach you are in leadership. This article will be the first of a 3 part series that will describe what I believe are the 3 most important aspects of leadership. They are Integrity, character and vision. Without understanding the role these three elements of leadership play or worse, ignoring one or more of them, we can join the crowd of failed leaders that rose to success but then fell too quickly. The first aspect of leadership we are going to be looking at is integrity.

Integrity can be categorised into two elements. Seen and unseen integrity. Integrity that is seen is often what your team, those around you or your family see on a regular basis. When you are confronted with a difficult or tempting situation and people see how you respond or you share how you responded in order to motivate your team members this is classed as seen integrity. This is something that most people can keep without too much trouble as they worry about the perception of those they lead or those around them. However its the unseen integrity that often gets neglected and forgotten about most easily. If we ignore the importance of integrity in our private lives we endanger not only our ministry or organisation but we also endanger those who follow us. Jesus once told his disciples:

“but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.”

Matthew 18:6

Our lack of integrity if it fails can lead those who follow us astray or at the very least can have a serious impact on their trust and faith in the organisation or in God himself. Little ones refers to status, not age. Rather than indicating actual children, this description likely points to new or immature believers, or perhaps humble or lowly disciples of Jesus. In either case the point is the same, if we are not careful and keep our integrity in tact then we will enviably lead others away from their God given purpose or at least make the journey they are on more unstable.

If we think about it how many leaders have you seen fail at times in your life? We see the famous ones hit the news and be plastered all over YouTube as people offer their 2 cents worth on the integrity of those leaders. This article is by no means an attempt to do that. What I have learned is that we can not be quick to judge and condemn others because if we are honest we have all failed at one point and have no right to judge. However we can learn from them and avoid making the same mistakes they did in their personal and professional lives. What happened that made them fall? What warnings did they miss? What safeguards did they not have in their lives? These are all questions we need to consistently ask ourselves to determine if we are in the same danger as they were.

As a believer in Christ I understand that first and foremost I need an honest relationship with my Father in heaven. God is the one that sees our hearts and our motivations. He is the one that can forgive and restore us when we fail. In 2 Chronicles 29:17 it states:

“I know, my God, that you examine our hearts and rejoice when you find integrity there. You know I have done all this with good motives, and I have watched your people offer their gifts willingly and joyously”

2 Chronicles 29:17

As a Christ cantered leader I know I need to sit before God and listened to his voice to see if there is anything happening in my life that I am blind too or need to fix. I do this by opening up my heart to Him and allowing him to point out dangers in my life. This is not always a present experience as it can be painful. However it is much less painful then not dealing with it and seeing my leadership crumble and others get hurt.

We are really good at putting on a mask and ignoring what is happening, we can sometimes even fool ourselves into thinking its not much of a problem. However the longer we ignore issues in our integrity the more danger we are in of loosing it. This is where as leaders we need to be focused on the on the scriptures. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 states:

“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”

2 Timothy 3:16-17

Paul uses the Greek term theopneustos that has a literal meaning of “God-breathed” to let Timothy know that Scripture is, in fact, from God. Yes its true that God used people to write the Scriptures but their ultimate origin is God himself. Scripture is useful because by reading it we allow the Holy Spirit to come into our hearts and point out any issues or warning signs, however we have to be open to it. Only then will the mask come off and our integrity will be kept in tact.

Abraham in the book of Genesis is someone who demonstrated integrity especially when it comes to finances. After defeating the kings and recovering the captives, Abram is met by the king of Sodom, who is accompanied by Melchizedek, king of Salem. The king of Sodom offers Abram all the plunder taken from Sodom as a reward for his successful venture, but Abram rejects the proposal because it implies dependence on someone or something other than God alone.

“Genesis 14:22–23 (ESV): But Abram said to the king of Sodom, “I have lifted my hand to the Lord, God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth, 23 that I would not take a thread or a sandal strap or anything is yours, lest you should say, ‘I have made Abram rich.’

As a leader there will be times when our integrity is challenged or tested. In those times we are to rely on God and his word as our foundation for how we respond in those situations. If we don’t want to end up like the leaders who have failed in the past. If we want to ensure both our seen and unseen integrity is kept intact the first and foremost we need the foundation of Gods word, his presence and an open heart to allow him to do what he needs to do in our lives.

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