Take Me to Your Leader

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How do you decide who to follow?

When we think of a good leader, what are the qualities we think of that makes them “good”? What would we list as top skills or traits a leader should have? Perhaps we think a leader needs a strong personality or business success. We might point to experience as a priority. Sometimes we choose leaders based strictly on how beautiful they are, or how popular they are portrayed in the media.

Are any of these qualities good indicators of how effective someone will be at leadership? I think there is a trait that can help us above all others when it comes time to decide who will lead us: that trait is a person's character.

“Character, or lack of it- is still the nemesis of most leaders in our world. Skills are critical to effective leadership, but character is also” (Blanchard 27) Ken Blanchard and Mark Miller wrote this declaration in the book, The Secret, in 2004. What do they mean by “character” and what are some examples of its importance in relationship to leadership?

To understand what we mean by “character” let’s first look at how it is defined. Dictionary.com defines “character” as encompassing the following:

1. The aggregate of features and traits that form the individual nature of some person or thing

2.Moral or ethical quality

3.Qualities of honesty, courage, or the like; integrity

4.Reputation[1]

These definitions help us to begin to comprehend how the role of character can bear on leadership. In The Secret, Blanchard and Miller teach that character is who you are…your being inside. It is much like an iceburg in that it encompasses the majority of the unseen (Blanchard 26) unlike your skills (the tip of the iceburg) which are the seen portion of what you do. What are these unseen attributes?

Based on our definitions above, they have to do with the qualities that make up a person. These traits would include honesty, courage, respect, and integrity. These attributes, along with others, can be found in the Bible in Titus where Paul instructs Titus on the qualities to look for in a church leader. These qualities include:

1. Blameless.

2. Able to lead in their own household

3. Not overbearing.

4. Not quick tempered.

5. Not given to drunkenness.

6. Not violent.

7. Not pursuing dishonest gain.

8. Hospitable

9. One who loves what is good.

10. Self controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined[2]

Now that we have listed these qualities and attributes, let’s look at how they could have an effect on leadership as to why, and how we lead.

Motive would be one key element that would test someone’s character qualities. If we ask a leader, “Why do you want to lead”? The motive will impact how effective that leader is and the level of trust we would have in them. If the motive, for instance is monetary than all of a person’s actions and decisions will revolve around that motive.

For example, if you are a politician and a person offers you money in exchange for a favor you can do for them, if your motive is purely financial gain, you may be willing to take a bribe. This in turn says something about your character, or who you are at heart. You can be bought. Your character drives your decisions, and your decisions are then influenced by the one who offers you the greatest amount of money because of what you value most. It is the motivating force behind what you choose to do as a leader. Your decisions become self serving rather than serving those you lead.

Another element of character is your set of values. People have differing values based on many things…including their faith. If your values are based on the Bible, for instance, then the character qualities listed above from Titus, should be evident in your leadership. For example, if you value hospitality, then one character quality that will be evident is generosity with your home. You have the reputation of “mi casa es su casa”.

In leadership, if you say you value hospitality, but never want anyone at your house, your integrity can come into question. You are not living up to what you claim is valuable to you. You are being hypocritical. People will learn not to trust what you say and question your character..

One final example for determining character is based on how you act and react. If you are prone to anger or bitterness, this indicates something that is going on inside of you…in your heart. If, however, you are peaceful and filled with joy, this too says something about you. These emotions can rub off on people, either in a negative or positive way. As a leader, your emotions can set the tone or mood of those you are leading. There is nothing worse than being around a negative, angry person, especially if they are in leadership. Conversely, it is uplifting to be around a happy person. Character isn’t something we can teach, it comes from within.

Luke 6:45 tells us, “The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks” (Luke). Good character is evident by a leader's actions, words, and emotions, as we have seen just a few examples here.

This can serve as a guide when the opportunity comes for you to pick a leader. Despite what friend’s say, who is the most popular, or how the media may portray someone, it is up to you to be the final judge of who you want as your leader. To be a good leader requires first to be a person of good character. Before you cast your vote, take a job, attend a particular church, or give your allegiance to anyone, first take a good look at the character of the leadership. In the end, you become whom you follow.


Bibliography

Blanchard, Ken and Mark Miller. The Secret. San Francisco: Brett-koehler Publishers, Inc., 2004.

Dictionary.com. 2008. 16 March 2008 <http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/character>.

"The Gospel of Luke." Luke. The NIV Bible. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2004.

"Titus." Paul. The NIV Bible. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2004.


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[1] See Dictionary.com under “character” for complete list of definitions.

[2] See Titus chapter two in the NIV Bible.


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