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FIRST-PERSON: Work on character


When hiring a new team member, it is important to consider the candidate’s character, competency, chemistry, capacity, calling and more. But if the character piece is missing, the rest of those traits don’t really matter.

The late U.S. Army Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf once said, “Leadership is a potent combination of strategy and character. But if you must be without one, be without strategy.”

When Christian leaders fall into disqualifying sin, it is normally a result of underdeveloped character.

Having said that, I do not recall seeing a long list of seminary courses, online webinars or leadership training events that highlight character development.

What can leaders do to aid in the character development of those they lead? Here are some suggestions.

1. Model it. We cannot lead others where we ourselves are not going. If we gossip and backbite about coworkers and other leaders, then we are communicating that gossiping and backbiting are acceptable and normal practices around here. We must model the character traits we hope to see in those we lead.

2. Hire for it. When it comes to hiring, we must vet, vet and vet some more. Talk to others about the candidate until you are certain there are no character red flags. Some leaders will lie, manipulate and bully others to get a win. You do not want that person on your team. 

3. Notice it. When you see admirable character traits on display in the real-life arena of your ministry or organization, pay attention to it. Make sure you are not the type of leader who only notices when things are done wrong. Rather, be one who sees when others are living out the values of your church or organization. 

4. Affirm it. “I saw what you did there” is a good line when you see a team member going out of their way to assist another or respond with grace and kindness when they are being unfairly attacked. Winston Churchill said, “Mountaintops inspire leaders, but valleys mature them.” Affirm it when you see someone having climbed through the valley of character development. 

5. Reward it. When we hear of rewards, we often think about money, but that is only one way to reward character — and likely not the best way. George Foreman rewarded his boxing opponent Muhammad Ali by referring to him as “the greatest fighter I every fought.” Foreman said, “Probably the best punch of the whole fight was never landed. Muhammad Ali, as I was going down — stumbling and trying to hold myself — he saw me stumbling. Ordinarily, you finish your fighter off. I would have. He got ready to throw the right hand and he didn’t do it. That’s what made him, in my mind, the greatest fighter I ever fought.” 

6. Demand it. Do not let major character lapses go by on your team without addressing them. No matter how great the talent, a failure of character must be addressed — and the severity of the transgression should determine the response. Being consistently late for work demands one response while lying to a church member or customer requires another, but both require some form of correction. 

7. Pray for it. One of the greatest ways we can serve those on our team or staff is to pray for character development in their life. 2 Peter 1:5-7 is a great place to begin praying. The writer encourages us:“For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love.” Praying for greater character development in the lives of others may be one of the best things we can do for them.

We will all never be equal in talent. Some have incredible abilities while others are more limited. Character, however, is something that all of us can work on equally. Consider how God may grow your character as well as use you to grow the character of those you lead.

    About the Author

  • Todd Gray

    Todd Gray is the executive director-treasurer of the Kentucky Baptist Convention.

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