“Be Trustworthy” is the third category we’re exploring in our “Be A Better Leader” series. In this series, we are looking at a variety of attributes, characteristics, and skills that are essential to effective leadership, and discussing how they are reflected in practice. In addition to this month’s topic, the list of categories also includes “Be Genuine,” “Be Relational,” Be Knowledgeable,” and “Be Excellent.” This month, as we look at what it means to “Be Trustworthy,” we will be talking about the need to be consistent, be safe, and be honest, and then I will share some thoughts on a recommended related book or two.
Very few people would question the importance of integrity and character and trustworthiness, and there are numerous good books available to prompt your thinking on these topics. Here are a couple of books that I’ve read in the last year or so that can provide some insight and food for thought.
We have seen leaders on the national and international stage who clearly seem to lack character and integrity, and the impact of their leadership has been devastating to watch. However, it is sometimes our tendency to see that as a “far-off problem,” and miss the fact that character and integrity are important issues in our own leadership. This is the issue that Joseph Stowell addresses in Redefining Leadership: Character-driven habits of effective leaders (2014).
Very early, in the introduction, he posits that, “The kind of person you are and how you navigate your leadership is at the core of long-term effectiveness” (p. 13). Essentially, he states that character-driven leadership is reflected in the kind of person you are as you lead, and how you lead, and he establishes Jesus as the teacher and model of this kind of leadership. Character-driven leadership, he says, reflects Jesus and gives us credibility.
In the first section of the book, Stowell differentiates between outcome-driven leadership and character-driven leadership, and then explores the implications of those differences, including the impact that results from the “who” and “how” of our leadership. In the second section of the book, he establishes Jesus as the example to follow. He explores and explains Jesus’ actions and thought process (the mind of Christ), and draws from them lessons for our own leadership that reflect Jesus’ style of leading (and serving). In the final section of the book, Stowell explains and applies the principles given by Jesus that are found in The Beatitudes, in the Sermon on the Mount, and establishes these as core competencies for character-driven leadership.
There is no doubt in my mind that character-driven leadership is an absolute necessity for our leadership as followers of Jesus, and this book is an excellent resource for helping us to understand and apply it. The challenge is that the pressures of the world in which we lead often make it difficult to maintain character and integrity, which in turn makes it that much more important for us, becoming a way that we can set ourselves apart and reflect Jesus to the world around us. I would urge you to reflect on your own leadership style and practice, and make sure that the actions you are taking, the motives that are driving you, and the character you are exhibiting all reflect Jesus, and I would encourage you to pick up a copy of this book as a reminder and a resource.
According to Dr. Henry Cloud, there are three essential qualities of successful leadership: Competence, or the ability to “master your craft,” to “get good at what you do”; Relationships, or the ability to “cultivate and maintain relationships that are mutually beneficial”; and Character, or “your makeup as a person . . . not just moral safeguards, but who you are at your core, in both positive and difficult circumstances.” It is this third quality, Character, that he addresses in his book, “Integrity: The courage to meet the demands of reality” (2006).
In the book, Dr. Cloud connects character with integrity and reality, by explaining how reality puts demands on our lives that force us to respond, and how our response to reality are a reflection of our character. Our integrity, then, is seen in how our character is consistently demonstrated in all areas of who we are. He then discusses six specific aspects of our personhood – who we are – that must be integrated (consistently reflective of our character) for us to successfully lead:
- The ability to establish trust through authenticity
- The ability to see and speak the truth and reality, both in/to themselves and in/to others
- The ability to finish well
- The ability to embrace – and therefore to learn from – the negative
- The ability to be oriented toward growth, which requires intentional effort and application
- The ability to be oriented toward transcendence, recognizing that something bigger than you, from which your values will emanate
I found this to be an interesting and thought-provoking book. The emphasis was not so much on the character trait of integrity, but rather on the importance of having an integrated character. I would probably describe it in terms of consistency in your response to the realities of life in all circumstances, which reflects who you are as a person. Therefore, in this context, integrity is actually referring to an internal state – the unified wholeness in your character and your personhood as you navigate life. I do believe whole-heartedly that consistency and authenticity are necessary for successful leadership (and successful relationships), so this is a good lesson on which to reflect.