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Letter #195: Character Over Competency

April 13, 2011

Dear character,

I’ve written to consistency before about it being the most beautiful and intriguing trait a person could possess. I’d argue you’re right up there with consistency, if not overtaking it. Without you, can consistency exist? Another debate for another day, but you are valuable. You’re the culmination of everything within us. When times get tough, you show up in truest form.

I’d argue everyone longs to follow leaders who are sound in your area. However, our culture has elevated screwed up principles and made it acceptable for leaders not to have solid you. Perfection isn’t the bar I expect in leaders. True you means making mistakes and owning the ramifications. Admitting fault. Taking responsibility. So often, leaders today try to sweep flaws under the rug and carry on as if nothing happened. This is where the problem lies. We all mess up, but what we believe to be true about you decides what path we’ll take from there.

I was in a meeting yesterday, and a co-worker I respect greatly referred to a book he’d been reading, Leaders Who Last (add it to my reading list!). It talked about how much emphasis our society places on leadership, yet how many leaders fall or disqualify themselves along the way. In the midst of leadership training, the competency of a leader is typically the focus. A good leader needs to be dynamic, a motivator, able to delegate and so much more. We measure ability to lead, but we don’t emphasize you much along the way.

The point my co-worker was making was if you think about any fallen leader, the fall doesn’t come from a competency issue but a character issue. I’ve honestly thought through a ton of big time leaders and haven’t thought of one. This could be in the Christian world of pastors, priests and ministry directors or in the business/political world of presidents, dictators and company executives. Fraud, adultery, abuse, embezzlement, murder…you name it, a leader has done it. All the leaders I can think of were very capable of leadership, but their capabilities exceeded the role you played in their lives.

Today, I am challenged to evaluate you in my life. I never want character flaws to disqualify me. As I learn more about leadership and motivating and directing people, I long for you to grow as well. This morning, Craig Groeschel tweeted a quote from an unknown source. Super fitting to my thought process today…“Character is built on daily decisions. Never let character give way to convenience.”

May our character match or exceed our leadership capabilities,

Character driven, yet mistake maker

{photo attribution}

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