6 Essentials of Leadership - Part 2
Your Character Has To Match Your Calling
Last time we began a new series on The Six Essentials of Leadership. We presented the idea that, though each of us is created uniquely, on purpose and for a purpose, there are six things that are essentials for every leader who wants to be a fruitful leader. We began by exploring why our relationship with God must be the primary focus of our leadership. This time we unpack the truth that your character has to match your calling…
I once knew a leader with a growing reputation. He led a growing church, was seeing many come to faith, was receiving invitations to speak at large conferences across the globe, and was even making a number of television appearances.
Everything was going well, until one day it came to light… he was having an affair. He was stepped down from the church and removed from ministry. But the really sad thing is that I can share this story confident in the knowledge you don’t know who I’m talking about, simply because this is a story that you’ve heard repeated time and time again.
The sad truth is that you and I have seen too many gifted, capable and anointed leaders fall because they didn’t have the private character to back up their public calling. (And let it be said that there, but by the grace of God, go I).
Yet many of these leaders had a phenomenal reputation, which demonstrates to us that reputation and character are not the same things: Reputation is what strangers think of you; Character is who you are when no one is looking.
Look at the image of the triangle above. Notice that the private foundations are larger than the public leadership elements. Now imagine if you were to invert that triangle with the tip at the bottom. There’s no way it could stay standing right?
Well, that’s what happens when our external opportunity exceeds our internal character; we are without a solid foundation, meaning that when challenges or temptations come we lack the internal resolve to stay standing. You see, people fail for lack of character, not for lack of gifting. Thus, your character has to match your calling.
Gordon MacDonald writes, “Sadly, we do not have a Christian culture today that easily discriminates between a person of spiritual depth and a person of raw talent.” That’s as insightful as it is true. You can get a long way in ministry on “raw talent”, but whilst your gifting may take you somewhere, it’s your character that will keep you there. Your character has to match your calling.
So what do we mean by character?
To be a person of good character means that who you are on the outside matches up to who you are on the inside; that who you are on the stage matches up to who you are off it; the way you speak to people “above you” matches up to the way you speak to those “below you”; that your words match up to your actions.
So to be a person of good character is to be a person of integrity. It is the person you are when no one is watching. As Socrates once said, “May the inner man and the outer be one.”
You see, God is way more concerned about who we are in him than what we do for him, and anything that we do for him should be an overflow of who we are in him. That’s why the scripture says, ‘People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.’ (1 Samuel 16:7). God is way more concerned about your character than your competency. Which is not to say your competency as a leader isn’t important, but competence without character is a recipe for disaster. Your character has to match your calling.
So here’s the headline: Your primary responsibility as a leader is to be continually becoming more like Jesus. Character comes first. Character before calling; character before competency; character before ministry; character before opportunity. Because the scripture says ‘the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth looking for those who…’ are excellent at what they do? No. For those ‘whose hearts are fully committed to him’ (2 Chronicles 16:9). Your character has to match your calling.
Recently I’ve started praying a new prayer. Granted it’s a bit of a weird one, you may have never prayed it before, but I wonder if perhaps you’d join me? “Forbid it, Lord, that I should be given any opportunity that I don’t have the character to bear up.”
Your character has to match your calling.