Several years ago I learned about four essentials to life: water, sun, enzymes and air. Each part plays a very significant role in our ability to survive on this earth. Based on these essentials to life I began to consider parallels to leadership. I have read several books, articles and website posts dealing with hundreds of ideas surrounding leadership. Perhaps you are familiar with the laws, principles, qualities and challenges mentioned in one way or another. Hundreds of great ideas have been presented in an attempt to help develop leaders.
After reading much of the material available, I began to reason, why not narrow it down to just the essentials? Is it possible to take the bulk of the ideas available and really come up with four areas about leadership to help develop the type of leaders needed today? With this in mind, I began to consider the four essentials to life and how they might line up with four essentials to leadership. I wanted to find four essentials worth investing into successful leadership. It was time to intensify the study and begin to cut away the baggage to really focus on the bottom line. Corporately, it would be considered making it “lean.”
The result of the research, discussion with other leaders, much prayer and thought, will be the subject of The Leadership Fund for the next few weeks. Each post will deal with the essentials of life and leadership beginning with “water.” A little research quickly reveals how vital water is to life. One website narrowed the value of water to one simple statement, “where there is water, there is life,”. Not only is the earth mostly water, so is our physical body. Consider how 60% of the body, 70% of the brain, 90% of the lungs and 83% of cells is made up of water. It could easily be said that water is the very substance of life.
Just as water is the substance of life, “character” is the substance of leadership. Where there is character, there is leadership. Scripture would indicate character is more than words, as David writes in the Psalms, “O Lord, who may abide in Your tent? Who may dwell on Your holy hill? He who walks with integrity, and works righteousness, and speaks truth in his heart,” (Ps. 15:1-2). David uses three words to describe the action of character: “walks, works, and speaks.” Character puts words into action. To quote Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner in The Leadership Challenge, “the video needs to match the audio.”
Since character is indicated by action, the conclusion, as stated in John Maxwell’s 21 Indispensable Qualities of Leadership, “talent is a gift, but character is a choice.” Character is indicated by the actions created from the choices we make. With each choice, character is developed. Everyone is aware of leaders who have great natural ability, talent to influence hundreds, thousands, even millions of people. Consider the talent of a professional athlete like Tiger Woods. His talent is beyond what many could only dream to possess. However, recent events in his life have shown flaws in his character. His immoral indiscretion has damaged his influence and revealed volumes about his character.
The essential foundation to developing leadership involves character. While I am not one to put stock in fortune cookies, about a year ago I found one very interesting. It said, “God gives us one face and we make for ourselves another.” To understand the essential nature of character to leadership, it should be mentioned that true character must be defined as being trustworthy. How can this type of character be developed? Consider the need to apply three specific areas.
First, before making any decision consider Suzy Welch’s “10-10-10 principle.” The principle involves asking the following questions: Can I live with this decision/choice 10 minutes from now? Can I live with this decision/choice 10 months from now? Can I live with this decision/choice 10 years from now? Often times, it is easy to answer the first and second questions. However, few ask the third question and answer honestly without considering the outcome of the present choice.
Second, take inventory of our values. Solomon wrote, “a good name is to be more desired than great wealth,” (Pro. 22:1). What is more valuable, character or achievement? Character or money? Character or popularity?
Third, strive for consistency. Hypocrisy destroys character. Our word must be our bond. Jesus taught the need for us to let our yes mean yes and our no mean no. Our character on the job, at home, with neighbors, in the community, or around Christians should be the same. The type of language we use, the attitudes we demonstrate, and our conduct should all measure up to our belief system.
The first essential of leadership is “character.” My prayer is for all of us to develop the character spiritual leaders need to glorify God and provide for the needs of the 21st century.