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.