“Gifted to Lead” is the Book of the Month for our “God Cares about His Women” Series. Nancy Beach titles Chapter 2: Welcome to the Boys Club. This title resonates with all of the women who are leading in male dominated environments, and specifically speaks to the hearts of the women who are leading in the Church…all of the compassionate, gifted, strong, sometimes lonely women who look around and find they are the only women in the room. All of those women and each of you need character. “Character is fundamentally about the underbelly of leadership—both who we are when no one is looking and how we relate with others (35).” In short, character is an integrity and relational issue.
For a leader, character also includes likability. The reality is: If no one is following you, then you are not leading. People follow those whom they like. Beach writes about the four character traits that shapes and leader, while also improving her likability:
- Humility: We will most likely talk about this topic with next month’s recommended book, but for know I’ll present the initial struggles with humility. Humility is the opposite of pride. Pride begins with “I” and humility thinks “we” and “us.” Phil 2:3 states: “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.” Remaining humble is a real challenge for each of us. I submit that is probably a more difficult challenge for those of us who are: a.) in a minority and/or oppressed group and b.) have a strong sense of righteousness and desire to respond justly to what we view as unjust systems. I believe this scripture gives us a perspective to always come back to…consider others (both the powerful and powerless, the oppressed and the oppressors, the boss and the employee). This verse reminds us to humble ourselves before the Lord and trust him in our circumstances (James 4:10).
- Self-confidence: Beach affirms that “Yes,” you can be humble and self-confident at the same time. A humble Christian leader knows that her confidence comes from the Lord who created, gifted, and empowers her to work. It is God who has given her the work (Eph 2:10). He equips her for the work. She understands that she is simply an agent of God’s work (Col 3:23).
- Humor: In short, don’t take yourself too seriously. I sometimes need this reminder. Give yourself a break. In most cases, the world is not going to end and no one is going to die if you make a mistake. Take ownership of it, learn from it, and move on. God’s grace is still sufficient to cover you. “Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own (Matt. 6::34).” Laugh a lot. Enjoy the journey. Get some rest.
- Integrity: I’ve come to understand integrity to mean “what you do when no one is watching.” That, in essence, is the real you. Unfortunately, we have all observed enough Jekyll and Hyde leadership failures to know how important integrity is. “No highly developed leadership skills or natural talents make up for a lack of integrity (41).”
Character is foundational for any leader. I will also add that competence is equally important. All Godly leaders must be intentional about cultivating their character, and they must also equip themselves so they can perform well in the environment to which they have been called to lead. Shortly after I entered the military, I remember someone telling me, “You must be a good Marine and you must good at your job.” As an officer, being a “good Marine” includes things like integrity, making sound decisions, taking care of Marines, maintaining top physical fitness… My job description was “Financial Management Officer” and I needed to understand the workings of the financial management systems, how to develop and execute a budget, government contracting, understanding authority, timing, and integrated systems. You can have the best character and be the most likable person, but if you do not understand your job and fulfill your responsibilities in the office, you will rightfully be rejected. Be a good student of your organization. Get a mentor.
Good leaders are people of character. Gifted leaders are competent. Christian leaders must be both.
What has most shaped your character? How do you improve competence concerning your job?
© Natasha Sistrunk Robinson 2013