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Of course God is in control. But there are certain things that God set to be controlled by the individual. You control your character. No one else is in charge of it, and no one else can dictate it other than you.
Most leaders live in a fascinating dilemma. Others see them as controlling everything, but they feel as though they are in control of nothing.
A novice looks at a professional surfer and foolishly concludes the surfer is in control. While the surfer might be controlling his body and the board, clearly the ocean is in charge. The surfer has learned to navigate with the ocean, but the ocean can do whatever it wishes with the surfer. So it is with leadership. Rarely are leaders in charge of anything even though a majority of onlookers and followers falsely conclude they are in charge of everything.
- The coach is supposed to win, but one injury to a key player can make winning impossible.
- The CEO is called to meet Wall Street expectations but the CEO neither sets the expectations nor controls the global economy which largely determines if those expectations are met.
- The teacher is held accountable for the test scores of students, but the teacher doesn’t control the home life, study habits, or attitudes of her students.
Leaders control far less than appearances lead others to believe. We are neither as powerful nor as in control as many think.
But we do have complete control over one thing – ourselves. God gave us the ability to deliberately choose how we will act.
Ironically, the only area over which we do have control is the one we often claim we do not control. We are quick to justify our actions, blame others, and claim we didn’t have the freedom of choice regarding our own desires. It’s denial; we are fully in control of ourselves.
… for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. (2 Timothy1:7)
So leaders want control of everything, but have control over little, and in the one area in which their control is unquestioned, they are quick to claim they can’t help themselves. This is the state of leadership.
Yet the truth is evident – we are completely in charge of ourselves. Numerous biblical stories highlight this fact, and numerous decisions that we make everyday highlight it as well.
The control which we have over ourselves and the importance which character plays in leadership provides a tremendous opportunity.
Because character is the most important thing we can possess and because our character is something we have total control over, character should be the primary focus of every leader.
Leaders should focus on character in three specific ways:
- We should focus on our own character. Before we worry about anything else or anyone else, we should focus on the development of our own character. It will last longer than any temporary issue and it is of more value than any temporary success or failure. No matter the future or shape of our career, our character is the one thing we will always carry with us.
- We should focus on the character of those who work for us. Those whom we lead should know how important character is to us. We should make it known through word and action that we are more concerned with the character of those we lead than any outcome or result. While a leader may be hands-off on a variety of issues, we should always be very hands-on regarding issues of character for those who work for us.
- We should focus on the character of our organization or team. Just as individuals display character, so do businesses, organizations, and teams. In the same way that character defines a person, it defines an organization as well. Leaders determine the character of a business or team. If they allow inappropriate behavior, either by encouraging it or turning a blind eye to it, they are developing bad character in the organization. Yet if they demand honesty, transparency, and integrity, they will develop the organization’s good character. Too many leaders fail to realize that their organization has character and it must be nourished and guarded or it will decay.
Focusing on character isn’t just a moral imperative, it is also smart business and leadership. Economic conditions can change, work expectations are never the same, jobs come and go, but character is constant. No one else can dictate what character you have. You are in charge of you.
By focusing on character, a leader can get the greatest return on his/her investment.
In leadership, character matters the most, which is good news since character might just be the one area over which God allows you full control.