“The main ingredient of good leadership is good character. This is because leadership involves conduct and conduct is determined by values.”
Gen. (Ret.) H. Norman Schwarzkopf
“So (David) shepherded them according to the integrity of his heart; and guided them by the skillfulness of his hands.”
Psalm 78.72 NKJV
Of the 1300 senior executives who responded to a recent survey, 71% indicated that integrity is the human quality most necessary for enhancing an executive’s effectiveness. While it may be encouraging that integrity is recognized as an important value in business, it is certainly neither as common nor as prevalent as we would like to see it. And sadly, religious and ministry circles are not exempt from this same reality.
Corporate scandals and leadership breakdowns have become so commonplace in recent years that we are no longer surprised when we read of congressmen and sexting scandals, politicians and interstate call girls or governors conducting extramarital trysts. Integrity is no longer assumed and its deficiency has impacted trust, relationships and profits as it has threatened even the existence of corporations. Just ask Bernie Madoff Investments, AIG, WorldCom, Enron, Arthur Anderson or those that invested in them.
Is it any wonder that people have lost faith in their institutions and the individuals who run them? Stories of political misconduct, corporate impropriety or the latest sports scandal have become all too routine as we have read of political or organizational leaders that have substituted power, control and manipulation for honesty, trust and respect. If we continue to allow entitlement and self-interest to motivate our actions the result will be a total breakdown of character and integrity.
The dictionary defines integrity as being complete or undivided. So when a person has integrity, his actions match his words. His conduct is not characterized by duplicity or hypocrisy, but by an authentic and unified character. As leaders, we cannot impart that which we do not possess and we cannot expect integrity from colleagues, subordinates, friends or family members, if our own lives are not characterized by the very same quality.
Writing to the editors of Newsweek, U.S. Army Captain Andrew Entwistle noted: “Integrity is like virginity — once you lose it, it’s gone for good…No officer should ever be in a position where he or she fears the truth.” Nor should any leader.
Here are five beneficial by-products of making a commitment to personal integrity:
1. Integrity Confers Credibility
Integrity is how leaders earn the trust and confidence of those around them. Your worth and value as a leader depends on your integrity. Without it, you’re trafficking in unlived truths. Christ addressed this subject head-on in Matthew 23.3 when he observed the religious conservatives of his day and observed, “The religious scholars and Pharisees are competent teachers in God’s Law…But be careful about following them. They talk a good line, but they don’t live it. They don’t take it into their hearts and live it out in their behavior. It’s all spit and polish veneer.” (The Message)
2. Integrity Builds Confidence
Leadership is a relationship between those who lead and those who decide to follow. If our lives are to impact others, we must first earn their trust and confidence. There is no better way to do this than through the consistent demonstration of personal integrity. We can work on the skills and the techniques of leadership but our character is much harder to develop. Leadership isn’t as much “doing” as it is “being.”
3. Integrity Convinces
The story is told of an Amish man who was asked by an enthusiastic young evangelist whether he had been saved and had accepted Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior. The gentleman replied, “Why do you ask me such a thing? I could tell you anything. Here is the name of my banker, my grocer and my farm hands. Ask THEM if I am saved.” No one can argue with the impact of a principled life.
4. Integrity Communicates
We can help people be more efficient leaders, but we can’t help them be better people. We can fill their heads, but we can’t renew their hearts. We can provide skills, but we can’t fashion their character. The display of your integrity, however, communicates on the deepest levels that what you say is matched by your lifestyle. Spurgeon observed, “A man’s life is always more forcible than his speech. When men take stock of him they reckon his deeds as dollars and his words as pennies. If his life and doctrine disagree the mass of onlookers accept his practice and reject his preaching.”
5. Integrity Demonstrates Courage
Integrity puts principles ahead of politics and other people before self-interest; it is not determined by convenience or expedience but by values and principles. Integrity is not formed in a crisis – it is only exhibited.
King David, a man after God’s own heart, recognized the significance and magnitude of integrity when he wrote in Psalm 26.11, “But as for me, I shall walk in my integrity; redeem me and be gracious to me.”
If our lives are to impact others with the life-changing message of the gospel, integrity will characterize our conduct. You and your message are one. Let’s commit to speak (and live) with absolute unity!
Stay the Course,
Dr. Greg Morris