Character in Leadership
A great leader is one that has great character. They are the ones that are remembered with reverence and time-weathered monuments. They are made instead of being born. They are what songs and epics are made of. Unfortunately, they are few and far between.
What is this character that is so precious? Basically character is having a good reputation, strong morals, and a high sense of ethics. They stand as leaders for others to draw upon. We’ve defined it, but where can we get it? Is it bought? Can it be won? Is it awarded the bravest and smartest? No, it is developed.
It Has to be Developed
The character is each person is much like a fine sculpture of marble or stone. The rough and unnecessary pieces just need to be removed. The process involves time, a hammer, and a chisel. Piece by piece the stone is removed. If it could “feel”, it would not be a pleasant feeling to have parts of it removed so harshly. Yet, the final result is what we gaze upon with wonder and admiration. We try to imitate it. We wish to achieve the same kind of perfection in our works. So, it is with the character in our lives.
We don’t start out with admirable qualities. We have to have them developed. They have to be revealed to us and sculptured. How do we learn patience? We have to experience events in our life that force us to become more and more familiar with patience. That is how we find ourselves wearing the cloak of patience. So, to acquire character we need to experience life that will develop our character.
A great example of character building was Joseph in the book of Genesis. He was a young boy with a problem learning when to speak and when to keep knowledge to himself. As a result, his brothers sold him into slavery. His tongue was not an excuse for his brothers’ actions. They were still wrong. He is acquired by a rich Egyptian who sees honesty and integrity in this young man who is still maturing. He promotes him to a high level in his household. Unfortunately, the man’s wife also sees some of this fine qualities and attempts to seduce him. When that fails, out comes the false accusations and tears. Joseph is thrown into jail for several years. During that time he continues to show kindness and helps others. He continues to grow in faith, maturity, and integrity despite what is happening. Eventually, he is rewarded with the second highest position in the land. Joseph knew mostly pain and suffering in the early years of his life. Adversity came and began to chisel away at him. What his brothers last saw him as was not the same years later when they stand before him in Egypt asking to buy grain to survive the famine. Character had emerged. The fine character of leadership was about him.
How important is character to God? Very important. How good of a leader would Joseph have been when first sold into slavery? He wasn’t mature enough yet. He wasn’t developed yet. When God calls a leader, He looks deep into their hearts to see what their character will be. Once He sees the strong potential, He brings in the purifying fire to begin shaping and molding the person to be the leader needed. A leader cannot be ready to lead until they have grown and developed and matured to the position. A leader needs to be ready to face what is before them. The tasks are not meant for those weak and immature. The road ahead calls for wisdom, ethics, and morals.
Character is shown when a person can do what is right even when doing that very act is not the easiest. It might even be the most difficult thing for a human to do. Take Daniel for instance. He not only took the hard way out once. He took it over and over again. He showed character in the making when asked to eat the sweet delectables of the king’s kitchen. Who wouldn’t want rocky road ice cream and bon bons everyday? He chose the carrots, beets, and broccoli instead. Sounds boring, and a hard diet to keep to. But in the end he was healthier than the ones who didn’t choose that path. He stuck it out and was rewarded for his wisdom in his actions of the simple part of life called eating. Later he was faced with another situation that was much harder. He could either pray only to the king or be thrown into a pit with starving lions. It would be so simple to pretend to pray, but that would be the easy and wrong thing to do. Instead he chose to pray only to the true God though that choice could mean death. He showed the character of a leader and was rewarded with his life and a high position in the king’s court.
The character of a leader is reflected in all aspects of their lives. It involves their public life, their private lives, their money, their faith, and their actions toward others. A person of good character is not just moral and upright in public. They must show it in their private life behind closed doors. They are not just kind and fair to one group of people. They are that way with all of God’s children. They will show character in how they handle their money, their animals, their family, and all their responsibilities. Society looks upon the outward appearance of someone including their physical attributes, their position in society, their connections, and their material processions. God looks beyond all that into the heart of a leader. When David was called to be king, God bypassed all his brothers who we as a society would have applauded and set up on pedestals. He saw what character would come out of them and instead went to one who had the potential for great character to be the future leader of his people. He knew this young man would keep striving forward and in the end always make the right decision even when the easy way out would be to go with the flow and not accept responsibility. He had the character of a leader in his heart waiting to be defined.
A leader also realize how much they influence others around them. Their character impacts so many other lives. When a leader cheats, someone is watching and learning. They are either hurt by the action or they are being schooled by it. When a leader shows strong character, someone is lifted up and mentored. A leader never is an island unto themselves. They are examples and mentors whether they know it or not.
The higher the position God calls someone, the stronger the character needs to be. Why? Because with more prestigious titles comes more responsibility. With more responsibility come more difficulties, more challenges, and more influence. A person of lesser character leads to destruction. A person of greater character leads to heights undefinable.
Yet, with such leadership position and strong character, humility needs to be just as strong. It is the checks and balances in our life that keeps us strong. Without equal humility, character can be the downfall of all around with the leader being the most damaged. Humility, keeps the character pure and strong. It keeps the person striving forward while not fixating inward.
Examples of good character that we can find in the Bible are:
· Daniel – He was discussed above in regard to choosing the right though not always the easiest route before him.
· Jonathan – He could have used his position as prince to grab the claim to a throne that was not his. Instead he chose to embrace the one it did belong to and choose humility instead of power. In doing so, he risked his relationship with his father and his very life.
· Joseph (Genesis) – We have already mentioned him and how he willingly followed God’s lead through many difficult situations and didn’t choose the easy way out. He chose the moral way.
· Joseph (Gospels) – The husband to be of the Virgin Mary could have followed the law which was on his side. He could have had her stoned. Instead he was honorable and showed character by deciding to put her away quietly. But then he showed humility to God and obedience by going further and claiming her as his bride despite what others would whisper behind their backs. The easy way out was not an option for him.
· David – Though he made enough mistakes to fill volume upon volume of novels, he always choose the right though difficult road when faced with the decision. When God caught his attention, he always chose the right and difficult path.
Examples of character not so good are also evident:
· Herod – He could have let the wise men alone and not tried to deceive them. Instead he lied and murdered a large number of small infants.
· Saul – Instead of accepting God’s decisions and being obedient, he repeatedly followed his own desires and was unrepentant when faced with the results. He chosse murder, defiance, and rebellion.
· Annanias and Sapphira – This couple could have been honest with God and been blessed. Instead they lied and tried to look good to the community. Their punishment with death.
How do we get character? Is there a secret formula or method? First, be humble. You need to be willing to accept what God brings before you and willing to walk through the fire. Look for the flaws in your life that needs to be corrected. Next, note any pitfalls you tend to blunder into. What are your weaknesses? What traps you? Only when you take note of them can you avoid them in the future. Next, be willing to accept the consequences of your actions. Wisdom and growth can only come through discipline and correction. Without accepting those there is no growth in character. Last, get back on track stronger then you were before. Don’t let the trials keep you down. Accept the steps above and then get back on your feet. You’ll find yourself stronger and better equipped when the next obstacles presents itself.
A great leader is one of good character. They have been through the fires of leadership and have been shaped by God. They are ready for the challenges before them that someone not called and not prepared could not face and survive.