Lecture 7: The Importance of Values
Character makes you a leader worth following. Some people have been great leaders without exhibiting moral values, but it is more difficult and often comes at great person cost. Justice, integrity, loyalty, diligence, humility, compassion and courage are import core values.
Character is essential for leadership though a number of leaders have led without it. One of the illustrations I have used in Alexander the Great. For a person who was twenty-one years of age at the time and defeated several world empires of the time taking his army from Macedonia to Egypt and then to India, his troops followed him through all of this. He died from diseases most likely from sexual immorality and additions. Steve Jobs, a fascinating book to read, even though abusive person and certainly not the godliest person, he influenced people and they followed him. The truly great leaders are those who are sat apart and leave a legacy and worth following are those who stand on principle. I have never heard anybody say that they want to be like Steve Jobs. They might want to be rich like him or creative like him. Andy Stanley says that you can be a leader without character but you will not be a leader worth following. So, at a certain point a leader has to decide who he or she is; we are talking about inner belief here; those core things inside; those things that are intrinsic. Character is what you are behind closed doors; when there is nobody else but you. This is who you really are; this is one way to think about character. I list some books of people who have written about character and leadership. Research at Harvard University indicates that eight five percent of a leader’s performance depends upon person character. Interestingly, Harvard has listed so much corruption in the business world that they decided to have a values course, but they couldn’t agree on whose values. In the military field, leadership is a potent combination of strategy and character but if you must be without one, be without strategy. This was quoted from Schwarzkopf.
In the political world, a person by the name of David Gerkan who you often see on CNN from time to time; he has worked under numerous administrations. After working with Nixon and Clinton and Ford, he concluded that before mastering the world, a leader must achieve self-mastery. At the very end, he provides seven lessons of leadership. He says that leadership starts from within as his first lesson. Heholt says that we often think of leadership as the top down. So, when we think about leadership, our first question involves the leadership that we are giving to ourselves. We tend to think in terms of what leadership we are giving to the staff, the church, etc. But how are you being a leader yourself; how are you leading you?
Why is it important for leaders to establish core values? Core values shape the organization. When we walk into organization, you can feel the character or values level of that organization and you see that by the value they put on their clients and also especially how their employees are treated. Often these core values go back to Christian values. Character matters in organizations in how they do business; for example in how they price things. Are they trying to get the most money from you are they concerned more with your comfort? What a leader holds to will eventually flow out into the organization. The illustrations that I have used started with the leader, not the organization. This is why the leadership that you give to yourself is important because it will affect those you are leading. Without values, the organization will not be sharped correctly. Some organizations that went badly; the reasons go all the way back up to the top. Establishing good core values inspires fellowship. Core values also generate influence. Leadership without character; a leader who wants to win too much; they need to win at all cost in all situations. It is a leader that all too quickly passes judgement; they seem to need to rate others and impose their standards on others. They make destructive comments and cutting remarks that make him or her sound sharp and witty. They withhold information in order to maintain a certain advantage because with knowledge there is always power. There is a failure to give proper recognition. These are signals showing character flaws. There is also playing favorites and claiming credit that one doesn’t deserve and failing to see that you are treating someone unfairly. Another one is refusing to express regret and to admit they are wrong. The most passive form of disrespect is not listening; another one includes an excessive need to be me. The list goes on; when we see this in a leader, we stop and ask ourselves about their character as there seems to be a vacuum.
C. Core Values:
This list is far from exhaustive. These are from books that I have read and from Scripture. What are the core values that God lays out for us to be? God holds a leader to justice because a leader has the leverage of power. A leader helps to determine whether things are going to be good or not. Ultimately, followers want their leaders to be fair and to be just and not to be unfair. Just leaders distribute the rewards fairly; they fight for the right of those on both the top and the bottom. They don’t just seek justice for one side but all sides. We want fairness at every level, taking serious the things that are not procedurally correct. Anything that is a fair wage in regards to employees is a form of theft.
The Book of Proverbs is the Bible’s leadership manual. It was written largely to upcoming future kings. You have chapters 23, 26 and 30 a king who is writing to diplomats and princes and what stands out in regards to core values is the constant call for justice. One of the king’s mothers in chapter 31 writes a letter to her son who is the king. She admonishes him to listen to her, telling him that he needs to be just because people need justice.
Another core value is integrity. Proverbs 11:3 says that the integrity of the upright guides them. Proverbs are to be reflected upon never reading them quickly. He is saying something about the value of integrity; what does having integrity do for us? It gives us direction; a leader is largely about direction. That is why we have leaders; they show us where to go and how to get there. So, what guides leaders is their integrity. If you as a leader maintain integrity, there will be a future for you in what you are doing. The Hebrew word, Tamom, is the word used for upright. This gives the idea of something whole or complete. Whenever you see a word like integrity in the Old Testament, it has the idea of somebody who is complete and the opposite of that is someone who is twisted or perverted. If you have integrity, nothing else matters; if you don’t have integrity, nothing else matters. If you could have anything that you could possibly have but you don’t have integrity, that doesn’t matter either. Andy Stanly says that your talent and giftedness have the potential to take you further than your character can sustain you. This should scare us for it is dangerous. You remember when Jabez’ Prayer was going around the different churches some years ago, along with calendars and mugs etc. Jabez called on God of Israel, ‘Oh that you would bless me indeed, and enlarge my territory, that your hand would be with me, and that you would keep me from evil, that I may not cause pain.’ This is a great prayer but it can be very selfishly declared. This made for great preaching material! One pastor in Europe prayed that the Lord would expand his character to the boundaries that God had given him. This was sincere for he had it right! A lot of us want our boundaries expanded but our character doesn’t expand at the same time. Because of this, sometimes people will implode; they blow up from the inside out because their character didn’t keep up.
Integrity includes aspects such as honesty; when we think of integrity, we think of honesty. A person by the name of Composernor did an exhaustive study survey around the world asking what people wanted from their leader in terms of character more than anything else. In collecting the data from this study, honesty was at the top. People want the leader to be honest with them. You also realize that honesty matters a lot to God for from Proverbs God lists six things that he hates. One of those things is dishonesty. Honesty involves keeping promises as leaders. They also need to be honest with themselves in regards to their flaws and their assets. A leader who is honest never lies to himself or herself. Great leaders are brutally honest with what they can do and what they can’t do, who they really are and who they are not. They don’t try to give an impression as to somebody they are not. This is what we want in a leader. Another word we can use is authenticity. I like this statement, ‘he does not cut his conscience to fit this year’s fashion’, but he sticks to convictions. In Acts 20, Paul called the Ephesians elders together; he had spent two years with these men. He tells them that they have seen his life, they have watched him. This is hopefully what all of us can do at some point; to make our lives an open book. You have seen what I am and how I am. Part of honesty is keeping promises, keeping priorities and keep conferences. Another statement, ‘integrity is like oxygen, the higher you go, the less there is of it.’ In our own political system, the higher you go, the more integrity you lose.
A third core value that people want in a leader is loyalty. Leaders who are loyal, who are committed to the people they lead are intercessors, just like Moses who prayed for his people. Interestingly, people support what they help to create; you are committed to it, you are loyal to it. One of my favorite stories of disloyalty, a book written by a pastor in a large church in Dallas; he tells the story of a number of Southern Baptist pastors who were ladder climbers as he referred to. In terms of loyalty, they would move from one church to the next bigger church moving up the ladder. Smaller midsized congregations were nothing but stepping stones. One such person used the people he worked with as the next step up. Indeed, our first loyalty is to God’s Kingdom. Before going to the Netherlands, I gave ten years of my life to the church and even though I was loyal to the church, there is certainly a higher loyalty. This can be difficult to define. It is standing by those who are working for you; being Loyal to ones gifts; you are committed to what they can give. If this is who I am, I have to be loyal to that. A leader that is loyal is a leader that is dedicated, committed, and humble; they are also loyal to people. For the sake of loyalty, you sometimes have to release a person from your staff. That seems like disloyalty but what is the loyalty that we are dealing with here? It is a greater loyalty to the other workers who might be impacted by this. This is a very difficult thing and some of us have had to do this. Your higher loyalty is to the mission or the organization. In fairness, others could ask how you could do this to the organization.
You can see how the quality of the character is defined and start to make a difference in what a leader is going to be. Is diligence a character value? We use the word incrementalism, which are small changes to small things. Within the context of diligence, this is a negative thing. It is refusing to pray the prayer of Jabez. A talk given by the CEO of Pepsi Cola once said that small changes to small things are a waste of time. It is living in the comforts of the small and not willing to stretch out. Back to diligence, this is someone who encourages innovation; they give value to pursuing passion and dreams. A leader by the very definition is about movement; they open up the windows and air things out, thus they bring the changes that are needed. They establish metrics; they look at the measureable. I talk about this in a Christian context. A lot of times, it is said that it is important that we are just faithful. This isn’t scriptural because what God calls for is fruitfulness; fruitfulness gets back to measuring things. It seems that when Jesus used parables like that of the talents, one day we will stand and give an account for what we did. Hebrews says to obey your leaders as those who must one day give an account. I don’t know exactly what that means. The real courage isn’t to expose the metrics, but to do the metrics, because most of the time we avoid it. It takes away accountability. This goes back to diligence. Jim Collins’ book, Good to Great, he wrote a little monograph. Jim assesses the most successful co-operations in America to see what they all had in common. This reduced it down to one thing and that was discipline. They were a disciplined organization. For example also, it is hard to see a life that isn’t disciplined at the core. Again, this goes back to diligence. Part of diligence includes understanding the value of time as a precious asset. Again, in studying Proverbs, a person who is one of the tragic comedies, that is, being funny and being a tragedy at the same time. That person is the slugger who is often described in terms of laziness. In various parts, Proverbs talks about the sluggard as being very evil. We are talking about a character flaw here. They are not necessarily those who refuse to do things but they refuse to learn things. You can’t tell a sluggard anything; they don’t want to hear anything or do anything.
So diligence is an issue of character. Andrew mentioned humility which is a key character issue because leaders struggle with pride. I ask a group of seminary students about the five top sins that pastors were guilty of. Pride was the first sin listed. Even Moses struggled with pride with the striking of the rock. Ruth Bartend quoted that there was a lot of narcissism among leaders. We are driven by our own grandiosity. This is why Jesus had to consistently teach his followers that they must descend to greatness. In other words, keep your eyes upon Jesus in a posture of learning. As long as a leader is green, he is growing; when he is ripe then he rots. There needs to be a willingness to acknowledge rather than justify mistakes. There must be a willingness to share credit. A statement by Calvin Coolidge says ‘it is a great advantage for a president and a major source of safety to the country for him to know that he is not a great man.’
6. Compassion and Courage:
This is a huge character quality. Those who refuse to reduce people to profits, dollars or units and create an organizational ethos that says they care are destined to lose. I also mentioned courage; a great leader does the right thing regardless of what it will cost them.