Heart is what really matters. It is to this one point that all our performances boil down before God. David, the king, “shepherded them [Israel] with integrity of heart; with skillful hands he led them” (Ps. 78:72). We need a healthy blend of character and competency in leadership! In Christian ministry, leaders with integrity of heart always make a lasting difference. An influential leader will nourish this heart capacity primarily in three dimensions of life.
Being Open to God: Being open to God is the key to success in leadership. When temptations of money or fame knock at the door, the leaders should be retreating to their prayer room, enjoying the presence of God, the most precious gain ever. Socialized to think that those who are not constantly in motion are unproductive, we tend to disregard the daily discipline of practicing God’s presence and waiting on God. Here we slip from depending on God and turn to trust our own capacities and calculations. King Rehoboam turned to unwise decisions (1King. 12:1-17) by the ambitious and tough counsel of young professionals while eliminating the wisdom of the experienced. The reason was simple, “because he had not set his heart on seeking the Lord” (2 Chron. 12:14). Success and acceptance are as tempting as the traps of fame, money and sexual sins in leaders’ lives.
True to Oneself: Character is perhaps the most widely used synonym for integrity. It’s all about being consistent in one’s behavior under every circumstance, including the unguarded moments. Persons true to themselves are characterized by gratitude, financial honesty, loyalty to family, transparency in relationships, dedication at the work place, faithfulness in time management, and utter honesty and trustworthiness. However, integrity is not automatic as some might think; it happens on purpose. It blooms as the leaders start to see themselves through God’s eternal perspectives. Samson in the Old Testament is a warning to us that one night of pleasure is not worth a lifetime of blindness. A large number of high-profile Christian leaders have stumbled on moral issues not by ignorance but by the hidden traps of authority and freedom they enjoyed. Many failed their families tragically as their priorities in leadership went wrong.
Transparent to others: Credibility is another word used for integrity. Leader development experts Kouzer and Posner said, “The ultimate test of the leaders’ credibility is whether they do what they say.” Ministry of any kind will fail, if we do not share our heart and model Jesus through our whole lives, not just at work, but also at play and at home. People’s observation of the leader can be too meticulous to be even imagined by the leader. They constantly and persistently seek answers for the integrity checks below (taken from the Leader-Multiplying Culture session at LDC* Hong Kong, 2013).
- Are you sure that you live and act in the perfect will of God? (Spiritual Life/Growing Deeper)
- Can I trust you? (Character/Being Genuine)
- Do you care about me and others? (Community/Knowing and Practicing Christ together)
- Do you know what you are talking about? Can you do it? (Competence/Knowing and accomplishing tasks skillfully)
- Do you know your destination? Is it safe to travel with you? (Calling/Growing in Purpose and Vision)
A careful study of the book of Nehemiah teaches us how the combination of the above characteristics made him an outstanding leader of influence and change. Continuing in service, may we gladly wait for the Lord’s commendation on our integrity “Good and Faithful” along with His applause for our competency, “Well done!”
* Leader Development Consultation (LDC) is an invitation-only collective of Christian leaders from many nations who gather for encouragement, networking and learning. The LDC tackles the most critical and timely issues for those who work in Christian leader development around the world.
© Jessie Thomas. All rights reserved. Used with permission.