The Critical Importance of Character & Integrity
Leadership Defined: A strong leader is someone who faithfully unites heart and mind in honorable, selfless action for the betterment of others so as to effectively accomplish the mission.
O Character (Our Being)
- Character is the summative features, qualities and traits that form one’s moral nature and reputation. Character influences the nature and quality of leadership.
- Integrity means that we adhere to moral and ethical principles. It requires honesty and wholeness of character.
Character is based on the premise of absolute truth.
Absolute is defined a concept which is not modifiable by factors such as culture, individual psychology or circumstances, but which is perfect and unchangeable. Used as the antithesis of relativism.
Truth is “the true or actual state of a matter: He tried to find out the truth.
conformity with fact or reality; verity: the truth of a statement; a verified or indisputable fact, proposition, principle, or the like: mathematical truths. the state or character of being true.”
When a society marginalizes truth by embracing relativism (any theory holding that criteria of judgment are relative, varying with individuals and their environments) the second order effect is the compromise or abandonment of character!
1. On a scale of 1-10 where 1 is relativism and 10 is absolute truth, where would you say our society is today in belief and in practice?
2. How many chances do you get with your reputation?
3. Why is it critical for you and I to be leaders of integrity with high, moral character?
- Without integrity our message is unbelievable.
- Without integrity values are worthless.
- Without integrity our worth is cheapened.
- Without integrity trust is lost.
- Without integrity our future impact is compromised.
- Without integrity our culture and team formations are jeopardized.
Thoughts on character from reputable leaders:
§ “When wealth is lost, nothing is lost; when health is lost, something is lost; when character is lost, all is lost.”--Billy Graham
- Without integrity and honor, having everything means nothing.—Robin Sharma
- Character is reflected in a man who will not let his circumstances dictate his principles.--Phil Downer in Eternal Impact
Illustration 1: African nations have a huge problem with corruption. In 2008 I took a team of leaders to Jos, Nigeria. While there we taught the local police force about character. After TK Moffett, a retired Major General shared, there was a Q&A session when the question of bribery was raised.
Deu. 16:19—You must not accept a bribe, for a bribe blinds the eyes of the wise and perverts the words of the righteous.
Ecc. 7:7—a bribe destroys a man’s heart.
Job 17:9—Yet the righteous person will hold to his way, and the one whose hands are clean will grow stronger.
Daniel 6:4—The administrators and satraps, therefore, kept trying to find a charge against Daniel regarding the kingdom. But they could find no charge or corruption, for he was trustworthy, and no negligence or corruption was found in him.
Illustration 2: Van closed the door to his office and invited Able to sit down. Able noticed he was tired and asked him if he was alright. Van said he was fine and settled into his desk chair. Able also noted that the boss had seemed irritable the past several weeks. But he figured it was best not to delve into matters that might arouse his boss’s displeasure. After a few minutes of chatting, Able said he’d found a way to save the company thousands of dollars. It involved manipulating records in order to avoid paying taxes to the IRS. Van asked him if it was legal. Able shifted in his chair and looked down at the plush burgundy carpet before answering. “Boss, technically this is not legal, but in researching this option I discovered from several of my friends in other companies that they do it all the time. If we were to get audited, I could effectively cover our tracks..” Van rubbed his hands over his eyes and slowly exhaled his breath before answering, “Do it.”
Van led his company with no ethical breaches for fifteen years. In one decision with a Chief Financial Officer who knew better, that changed. What happened? Several factors can cause leaders to compromise their character and integrity.
1. Fatigue. Van was tired. Besides his 60-hour work week, he was a busy father, a church leader, an avid mountain biker and a board member for several corporations. Coach Vince Lombardi once said, “Fatigue makes cowards of us all.” Well fatigue can also contribute to poor decision making. Bill Clinton was quoted as saying, that every major mistake he made happened as a result of sleep deprivation.
2. Resentment. Van was not thinking clearly when he told Able to “Do it.” He was harboring resentment against his wife. He was tired of the way she ignored and treated him and their marriage was in trouble. With that resentment a pulsating message infected his thinking--I don’t deserve this. I deserve better. That mini monologue now transferred to his business.
3. Pride. With the benefits of power and prestige, Van over time became impressed with himself. He did not like the fact that his company had to pay taxes that in his mind robbed their profitability. He decided it was time to stick it to the IRS. He was the boss and some foul government agency was not going to take their hard-earned funds.
4. Insecurity. Able had a strong personality and a knack for getting things done. Val did not want to confront him over what seemed like a minor indiscretion. It was easier to say yes, than to admonish Able.
5. Peer Pressure. Able alluded to this by referencing others who acted illegally. It is hard to go against the crowd.
6. Ignorance. Van was not clear on the IRS rules and therefore ceded his responsibility to Able. Leaders who are unaware of rules or social mores can be compromised. Example: My failure to report a GO because I did not know the rule.
7. Selfishness. Van wanted his company to keep more of their profits. Therefore he set aside principles to gain what he wanted.
8. Purposelessness. The story of VetREST and Andy.
Strong leaders pay attention to the way of integrity. They resist setting aside what is correct for what is convenient, attractive, compelling, cost-saving, or pleasurable. They don’t allow cracks in their foundation and, if a crack is identified, it is quickly sealed. A house filled with truth is blessed. So take inventory. Identify anything that may hurt your character and eliminate or avoid it. Live each day to honor the Father, who is perfect in all His ways.
 Francis Schaeffer in The God Who Is There, (Crossway Books: Wheaton, IL; © 1990)