Integrity is the ability to live with nothing to prove and nothing to hide. It means that we are the same person in office corridors as we are in the spotlight. On the platform and off the platform, we are true and consistent. We do not change depending on the situation or the company.
Without a commitment to integrity, you may fool others for a while, but when your true colors begin to show, and inevitably they will, your leadership credibility will be proportionately affected.
Whether you are relating to your boss, your peers or a member of the team you lead, consider and adopt the following “Rules of Engagement” as a set of functional attitudes that will serve as your compass for interactions with all types of people.
FOCUSED BUT KIND
There is no room for rudeness in the kingdom of God and, therefore, no room for rudeness in the demeanor of a leader who is a follower of Jesus. Will people upset you? Absolutely. Will they let you down? Yes. At times will they deserve your disapproval? More than likely. But playing the role of judge and jury is not the job of a Christian leader (see Matthew 7:1-2). We are called to maintain our focus without being rude, even in the face of pressure and disappointment.
A laser focus on the task at hand should never negate the necessity to soften our voices and pad out our sentences. In our fast-paced world of emails and text messages, a great deal of kindness and good intent is lost in translation. People should feel inspired, welcomed and a part of the plan when they interact with us, whether it is through a text, email, phone call or in person.
Unfortunately, some people mistake rudeness for strength. Rudeness is not strength. Rudeness is just rudeness. On the flip side, some people mistake kindness for weakness. Not so. Kindness is not being weak; kindness is godly and one of the fruits of the Spirit. Jesus Himself taught us that the meek are blessed and can expect a great inheritance. Meekness, humility and kindness are signs of maturity and strength (see Matthew 5:5)
Kindness moves us forward politely. Kindness makes tough decisions respectfully, with humility and in the best way possible.
BOLD BUT INCLUSIVE
While we are bold in making tough decisions, we should remain sensitive and open to the input of others. Bold people win the day. However, in our boldness, we should never be so far ahead of our team that they can no longer see us. When you sound the charge, be sure that you do not run so far ahead of the rest that they pull back and relax while you get the job done alone. Do not be so in charge that your team leaves the work to you or become afraid of taking their own initiative.
Great leaders know how to stand at the front while still making others feel valued and respected as co-laborers. As a leader, you have envisaged, meditated, strategized and then communicated your vision with the team. People take time to catch up, so give them the space to do so. Make sure you are an inclusive leader.
An additional strength of any great leader is their ability to create a world so large that it has the capacity to include big-thinking, high-achieving people within it—people with big opinions and big ideas. They need to be sought out, welcomed and encouraged on the team. One thing that keeps churches and organizations small is a leader who is intimidated by big people.
Unintentionally, they force big people away. They do not mean to, but they create a small world where there is no room for ideas, initiative or creativity other than their own. Build your team. Listen. Welcome opinions. Earn respect. Utilize gifts and talents. Then, you will become a leader who is bold and achieves the tasks while including great people along the way.
HUMBLE NOT TIMID
You cannot achieve significant goals if you are timid. You will need to step out of the proverbial boat from time to time. In fact, most of the miracles that will happen in your life will take place after you have conquered fear, mediocrity, intimidation, preference, complacency or whatever else may be hindering you.
When Jesus’ disciples saw Him walking on water toward them that fateful night, they were all faced with the same opportunity. Only one of the twelve overcame his fear and stepped out of the boat in response to Jesus’ beckoning. Peter is famous for walking on water while the other eleven remained in the security and familiarity of the boat (see Matthew 14:22-33).
Miracles happen outside our comfort zones. Dynamic leadership demands that you step up and step out. Not all leaders are naturally self-confident people. But we can all possess a keen sense of “God-confidence,” standing strong in the midst of challenges, not because of what we believe about ourselves but because of who we believe. Our confidence does not come from the past or the picture we have of the future but from God, who is present through it all and calling us toward the goal. It is a humble confidence.
Humility is not the same as timidity. Often, we mistakenly use the word humble interchangeably with the word timid. While timid people rarely step out of their boats, humble people lean on a strength greater than themselves and obey the call.
A humble person knows they do not need to prove themselves. Your greatest season of growth in leadership comes when you get past the point of thinking you have to prove yourself or that you somehow have to show the world who you are. As soon as you pass that mindset, you can step easily into the strength of humility.
Humility is being secure in who we are and in God who calls us. The antithesis of humility is pride. However, pride is not always as obnoxious as we may think. It can be much more subtle than outward gloating about status or possessions. Pride is often an inability or resistance to change.
God willingly and joyfully gives grace to the humble; He also resists the proud. God is not necessarily talking about the boisterous show-offs. Pride is more often evident in a person who is not prepared to go through the often-uncomfortable growth processes required for change. It is the reason a whole generation perished in the wilderness, never seeing the Promised Land. It is also the reason that many leaders today fall short of their ordained potential.
Humility is not a weakness, and it is not timidity. Humility shows itself in a person who knows who they are and who they are not. Humility knows who is in charge because it knows who God is in the equation. Humility ascribes appropriate authority and power to God. Humility submits to His beckoning and believes that through every challenge, He is the Source, the Author and the Finisher. Humility does not seek validation and is open to correction for growth and effectiveness.
Do not be timid—be brave! Be humble, teachable, pliable and willing to change through growth. Adopt a mindset that knows there is always something new to learn.
EXCELLENCE NOT ARROGANCE
Be the best you can be. Do not be scared of being rich, famous and brilliant. People wrongly avoid these blessings when God actually wants you to carry influence and be the best you can be. He is not intimidated by your success; He is glorified. You are blessed to be a blessing. In fact, you can be certain that nothing would bring Him more joy than to see you reach the heights of your calling, employing and deploying each of the talents and personality traits He intentionally placed within you.
Your success is not the issue, but developing arrogance is. The challenge to being successful is staying free of arrogance. The world does not model this well for us. Even the heroes of the Bible wrestled between humility and arrogance. A brief character study of King Saul in the Old Testament reveals that fame and influence can turn even the most timid of people into crazed, narcissistic power mongers. It is also important to note that influence is inevitably stripped from those who fall into this unhealthy pattern of leadership.
A kingdom-oriented leader seeks to be the best they can be and carry presence and influence in their spheres without bragging or being self-promoting. Scripture prompts us to leave the conferral of praise to others while we focus on leading and influencing: “Let another man praise you, and not your own mouth; A stranger, and not your own lips” (Proverbs 27:2).
Influence should never come from position or title alone. You know when leaders are in trouble because they find it necessary to remind everyone that they are in charge. “I’m the leader.” “I’m the pastor.” “I’m the boss.” As soon as you have resorted to those statements, you have you have lost credibility. You are now leading out of position rather than authority, trust and respect. Leading out of position is the lowest form of leadership.
Arrogance is the ugly offspring of the attitude that says, “Don’t you know who I am?” It demands that people pay homage to a position. It may not be said out loud, but it is a common attitude that can fester within leaders who have lost sight of the main thing.
Arrogance carries with it a sense of entitlement. There is nothing wrong with privilege, but you should never expect it. Allow your success to speak for you, but always find your identity in Jesus, not position or accolades.
Titles are given, but respect is earned. A title offers you prominence, while respect paves the way for significance, and there is a world of difference between the two. Significance always carries longer-lasting influence than prominence.
The desire for significance will push you toward success. The desire for prominence will push you towards arrogance. Arrogance will push you into selfishness and ultimately rob you of the call God has for your life. Again, King Saul sets a clear precedent for what happens when a leader’s sense of influence becomes entitlement rather than privilege. Authority is removed from the leader who has allowed God’s intention and kingdom influence to take a back seat to self.
You can be arrogant in the world and get away with it, but not in the kingdom of God. It does not work well in God’s economy, on His watch and in His purposes. God wants you to be successful, but He will resist you if you become arrogant.
HUMOROUS AND WISE
A sense of humor is a great tool in leadership. It puts people at ease. Some of the biggest decisions we have navigated with our executive team have been approached with a sense of humor. When the leader can smile at adversity, the team is at ease and can be confident for the future. When the leader can laugh, the rest of the team feels that it is going to be all right.
Humor makes difficult concepts more palatable. It lends itself well in the art of communication. It makes messages easier to remember. It helps build bridges between people. When you are speaking in front of new crowds, where the audience does not already know you, you only have a few minutes to build a relationship so that they are willing to listen to what you have to say. A great tactic is to use humor.
You cannot let the enemy steal your joy, no matter what you are going through. “The joy of the Lord is your strength” (Nehemiah 8:10). Of all the things you cannot afford to lose as a believer, your spiritual strength is extremely important. Joy is the source of that strength. So, humor becomes an effective tool in leadership at many levels.
However, if you cross a line, humor quickly ceases to be helpful and can become a hindrance. When you go from funny to foolish, you lose credibility as a leader. If you do not want to be the leader, rest assured that there would always be a position for you as the class clown. People may laugh at you, but they will not follow you. Being funny, not foolish, is an important tension to manage as a leader.
OPTIMISTIC BUT GROUNDED
One of the greatest challenges in leadership is to remain true to the vision. A skill that very few people manage well is being able to see where they want to be and where they want to go while still living faithfully in their current reality. The gap between current reality and future goals can be discouraging at times. The distance between what you want and what you have, between what God has called you to do and where you are now, is the ground that leaders fight for on a daily basis.
You must be an optimist in the sense that although you are not “there” yet, you know that with God, you can and will someday be “there.” While some believe it will all work out “no matter what,” this mindset is neither strategic nor effective. We do not need leaders who are blind optimists. Faith is not stupid or void. Faith is a risk, not a gamble. We have to be optimists without avoiding reality.
Others are so overcome by their reality that all they ever see are problems and lack, which cripples them to such an extent that they do not even bother trying. Skillful leadership is not avoiding problems or pretending they do not exist, or giving up before you start. Skillful leadership understands that with God, all things are possible and that we have to work the strategic plan. Faith is not lazy, but it is at rest. Faith does not take the work out of life; it takes the worry out of life.
We must remain optimistic and believe all God’s promises to us while still accepting the necessary responses and actions to take us into those promises. No one promised us a leadership journey free from challenges, but God did promise that in the midst of those challenges, He would bring us forward.
We can remain optimistic when we believe that deep within every problem lies its potential solution. We are promised in Scripture that we have already been given all the things we need in this life to live the call we have been given. Therefore, we can confidently approach our challenges with a sense of expectation that with God on our side, we will find the strategy and operate from a position of victory.
We need not become blind optimists nor suffer from analysis paralysis. Neither end of the spectrum is effective, and neither one is consistent with Heaven’s perspective. What we need to become are leaders who move forward in faith, with a hope that points us in the right direction.
We should not spend more time setting up for survival in the desert than we do strategizing our way out. Too many people are working out how to exist in their dysfunction rather than spending their energy exercising obedient faith to make a way out of it.
Optimism is a combination of faith and strategy. We confidently navigate our way to victory, not by avoiding problems but by rearranging and reimagining them through the wisdom and insight of the Holy Spirit. Skillfully hone what God has given you as a leader, so you and those with you can be expanded and go to new levels.
Perhaps you have noticed already how subtle the attitude adjustments can be and just how vigilant we must all remain in keeping our hearts healthy as leaders. We can regularly take stock of our internal condition using checks like this. Playing by these rules will help you and your team enjoy the journey you are all on together.
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