I think we would all agree. In fact, I would argue that it matters more today than ever before. Don’t believe me: look at politics. Look at several stories of leaders in the evangelical circle who lacked integrity.
The sad thing is that I could write far too many stories about leaders within the church, our political system, or sports who had a much different private life than people saw in their public life.
It is a shame when people are more surprised by an act of integrity than a lack of integrity. It is sad when scandals and news stories about a lack of integrity in a leaders private life are becoming too “normal.”
Integrity is important for a number of reasons.
- Integrity builds trust from your followers. Craig Groeschel says, “People would rather follow a leader who is always real than one who is always right.” Too often we try to work so heavily as leaders on our competency (and you should), but we should be working twice as hard on our character. When you lack integrity, your intentions and decisions will be questioned which will limit your leadership capabilities.
- Integrity helps you lead better. Secrets impact leadership. Imagine living a life with no secrets. Imagine the freedom that would bring to your leadership. Imagine the confidence that would flow from your leadership if you never had to worry about “what if they find out about ____________?”
- Integrity is how people will remember you. Too often we try building a platform here on earth, but I have never been to a funeral that is all about someone’s accomplishments. They are usually about celebrating who a person was.
Integrity matters. In fact, I would suggest that if you do not have integrity, that is really all that matters. So, we need more leaders who have integrity.
Here are four ways to protect your integrity as a leader:
1. Always Be In An Accountable Relationship
Accountability matters when it comes to a life of integrity.
In fact, I have sat down to chat with leaders who have fallen in their leadership over the years, and one common thread in the situations was a lack of accountability.
We get into trouble when we think we are too good to need accountability.
You never outgrow the need for accountability. In fact, the higher you go up in your organization, the more accountability you need.
You need to have one or two relationships right now who know you. Relationships with people who know your struggles. Who know where you are. Who know what you watch. In fact, you should be living a life of integrity to where you could give your phone to people at the drop of a hat without the fear of something being found out.
You say, “I am not in these relationships.” Then get in them today. Protect yourself. Find people that you love and trust and ask them to hold you accountable.
2. Schedule Your Day To Avoid Boredom
Bad things happen when leaders get bored. Boredom tends to lead to bad decisions.
If you have multiple gaps during your week where you are free for long periods of time with nothing to do, schedule things to do to avoid running the risk of losing your integrity.
I am not advocating a “workaholic” attitude. I am saying fill it with something. A hobby or work, just fill it with something.
I have added things to my calendar which is seen by my wife and our administrative assistant so they can know where I am pretty much at every moment of the day.
These precautions may sound extreme or a bit legalistic, but I would rather be accused of legalistic boundaries than be accused of living a life without integrity.
3. Assume Your Private Life Will Become Public
The truth is, very few things are private anymore with the rise of search engines, smart phones, and social media.
In fact, many political figures are getting into trouble for things that happened years ago. How? Because very few things are “private” anymore.
Just assume that everything you do will become public and if what you are about to do were to become public, ask yourself if it would hurt your leadership? If so, don’t do it.
If we lived our lives as if everything we were doing would eventually be made public, would you live differently?
I’m sure we all would to a certain extent.
We just need to be asking this question daily, “If what I am about to do were to be made public, would I still do it?”
4. Strive For Integrity In The Small Things With As Much Energy As You Strive For It In The Big Things
Every leader recognizes the need for integrity in the large things. When I refer to “large” things, I am referring to morality, scandals, affairs, etc.
But, what if we strived for integrity in the small things like what we say when no one is around? How about the honesty when you are speaking about your job and the reality of how things are really going? What if we strived for integrity in the small day-to-day conversations where we “stretch” the truth a bit?
What if we strived for integrity in the way we treated our spouse or our kids?
Strive for integrity in the smallest things and you will likely have the integrity you need in the larger things.
5. Have A Consistent Spiritual Walk
Look, I am a pastor. You may be reading this and immediately disregard this one if you are not a believer, but here me out.
I truly believe that the best boundary for a life of integrity is a consistent spiritual walk.
Have you ever spoke with someone who has been married for over 50 years or who has served as leader for their entire life? Ask themselves this question, what got you to that point, and how did you experience such longevity.
Usually for religious people, they refer or point back to a time where they were challenged to start some spiritual disciplines in their lives.
They point back to a time where they were challenged to read their Bible on their own during the week.
They point back to a time where they were challenged to pray on their own during the week.
I am convinced that spiritual disciplines in your private life can help protect you in your public life.
Here is the big idea: Because integrity matters most, you should work twice as hard on your integrity as you do your competency.
So, how are you working on your integrity? Are you emphasizing this? Is it important to you?
Remember, if you have integrity, that is all that matters. If you don’t have integrity, that is really all that matters.
You can live a life of integrity.