Character is the foundation upon which true leadership is built.
Think for a minute about the leaders you’ve serve under—whether spiritual or secular. It’s much easier to follow a leader of character and integrity, isn’t it? And difficult to chaff under the authority of someone whose character you don’t respect.
That’s why character is the second integral component of “Leadership the Daniel Way.” In the last issue of energize, we looked at the first characteristic that makes great leaders: conviction – WHY you do what you do. Today, let’s drill down into character – WHO you really are.
Daniel: A Benchmark of Righteousness
From the time of Daniel’s youth, when he was first taken into captivity by the Babylonians, and all throughout his illustrious career in the king’s court, he was put into situations where he could have easily compromised his integrity and buckled under to the pressures of a hostile culture. But with the steely determination that comes from conviction and character, Daniel drew upon his faith in God and stood firm. He stood with wisdom and courage. And as a result, he influenced kings and cultures for the glory of God.
Daniel was one of only three benchmarks of righteousness mentioned in Ezekiel 14:13-14:
…if a country sins against me by being unfaithful and I stretch out my hand against it…even if these three men—Noah, Daniel and Job—were in it, they could save only themselves by their righteousness, declares the Sovereign Lord.
When No One’s Watching
How about you? Is your life a benchmark of righteousness? And how about your adult and student leadership team? Are you challenging them to live lives that are benchmarks of righteousness?
I’m not taking about legalism here, or perfection. I’m talking about an inner core of character that continually strives to stand before God in the holiness and integrity that comes from following Jesus with a whole heart and tapping into the power of the Holy Spirit moment-by-moment.
It’s been said that character is who you are when nobody else is watching. Who you really are.
So I encourage you and your leadership team members to look into the mirror of your soul, where no one else can see, and do a character assessment. If you find your character wanting, here are three practical steps that can help. Apply them in your own life and challenge your leaders to do the same.
1) Who you are is driven by the fuel you choose to run on.
“Now when Daniel learned that the decree had been published, he went home to his upstairs room where the windows opened toward Jerusalem. Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God, just as he had done before” (Daniel 6:10).
- What is your personal prayer rhythm?
- What is your leadership team’s prayer rhythm?
- What is your youth group’s prayer rhythm?
2) Who you are is impacted by the choices you make.
“But Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine, and he asked the chief official for permission not to defile himself this way” (Daniel 1:8).
- What choices are you making right now that are negatively impacting your character?
- Here are just three specific areas to consider: porn, slander and pride.
- Porn: 37% of pastors struggle with porn. 53% report visiting a porn site in the last 12 months.
- Slander: While we’d stop porn in the foyer, we allow gossip in, often spiritualizing it by saying something like, “We need to pray for…Did you hear about…?”
- Pride: Being front and center can easily turn into an ego feeder. But we should always deflect peoples’ attention and allegiance toward God, and never indulge the temptation to cultivate our own little fan club of followers.
- Where necessary, seek repentance and redirect your efforts based on Isaiah 1:16-17:
Wash and make yourselves clean.
Take your evil deeds out of my sight;
stop doing wrong.
Learn to do right; seek justice.
Defend the oppressed.
Take up the cause of the fatherless;
plead the case of the widow.
3) Remember that who you are was ultimately determined by the choice that Jesus made!
The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus (Romans 6:10-11).
- Are you reminding yourself that the old you is dead and the new you is your true identity?(Romans 7:21-25).
- Align your beliefs, thoughts, words and actions upon your true identity in Christ and walk as who you are in Christ and not as what you were.
When you build your character on Christ, you’ll become a leader worth following.