Character is critical in leadership, and it’s also critical in life. Here are six reasons character is so important.

1. God sees your heart.

It was a time of transition, Samuel was choosing the next king, God had already rejected Saul due to character issues. Samuel was sizing David’s brothers up one by one, as they presented as more impressive leaders. Then God dropped this truth bomb.

But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7

God looks at your heart. He understands you at your deepest level. He observes not just your actions, but He weighs your motives in what you say and do. This is what Jesus said we are accountable to God for. Character seems to matter to God

2. What’s inside eventually comes out.

Every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits. Matthew 7:17-20

John Eldredge writes in his book, Waking the Dead about Proverbs 4:23 that says “guard your heart … for it is the wellspring of life”:

“We usually hear this with a sense of ‘keep an eye on that heart of yours’ in the way you’d warn a deputy watching over some dangerous outlaw, or a bad dog the neighbors let run ’Don’t let him out of your sight.’ Having so long believed our hearts are evil, we assume the warning is to keep us out of trouble. So, we lock up our hearts and throw away the key, and then try to get on with our living. But that isn’t the spirit of the command at all. It doesn’t say guard your heart because it’s criminal; it says guard your heart because it is the well-spring of your life, because it is a treasure, because everything else depends on it. How kind of God to give us a warning, like someone’s entrusting to a friend something precious to him, with the words: ‘Be careful with this—it means a lot to me.’”

3. You can’t give what you don’t have.

Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’ John 7:38

I was on a mission trip in Mexico. We were building houses, but at each job site the kids would gather for a little VBS in the morning. The big hit in these dry desert areas, was the large orange water cooler we brought with us. We learned the first day to bring one for the team and one for all the kids who would line up for a drink. One day we showed up at the site, the kids of the neighborhood were already lining up for water. When we realized we had forgotten the cooler. The kids were so thirsty and we had no water to give them. The motivation was there to give them something to drink. The desire was there, the compassion was there, we wanted more than anything to share some water with them. But the reality was… the cooler was empty. I learned an important lesson that day: you can’t give what you don’t have. We couldn’t just produce it, couldn’t muster it up, couldn’t go around the corner and get a refill, there was nothing we could do to quench their thirst. A lot of people approach ministry leadership like that. Day after day showing up and trying to give something they don’t have themselves. Character assures that your heart is full so you can give to others out of the overflow.

4. As your character grows your life will work better.

Nothing in the world can compensate for a lack of character. Even in a workplace that wouldn’t espouse any religious affiliation at all, character is the great leveler. You may be smart, but if people don’t like you, they won’t want to work with you. You may be the best software developer in your field, but if you lie, people won’t trust you. You may be able to bring mountains of cash into the company, but if you mistreat the people who work with you, they’ll leave.

On the other hand if you possess character, you will generally make better decisions and it will affect how your life works. Your character determines the kind of spouse, and parent, and friend, and employee, and leader you are. Who you are in life will always be propelled forward by your character. It is like a deep well that you can draw on during good times and bad.

Blessed is the man, whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. Psalm 1:3

5. People will follow because of who you are.

“Follow my example as I follow the example of Christ” 1 Corinthians 11:1

Why will people follow you? Many think it’s because of skills, or the ability to cast a big vision, or maybe just paying someone enough money will convince them to follow.

In their book, The Leadership Challenge, Kouzes and Posner asked people to describe the best leaders they had every worked with. People listed qualities like the courage to do the right thing, and admitting mistakes, making time for them and listening to them, the created an environment where there was trust and support, they were leaders who empowered them, and helped them to overcome personal hardships.

All these things speak to character qualities like humility, patience, honesty, courage, wisdom, faithfulness, compassion, and unselfishness.

When we think of leadership development, it’s easy to focus on developing leadership skills and capability more than leadership character. But people will follow because of who you are. the challenge of the Christian leader is to be the kind of person that others want to follow and emulate by virtue of their life that is lived before them. The following are some quotes that reinforce this thought

6. Character determines your destiny.

We rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. Romans 5:3-5

This passage in Romans points to the cascading effect of a life of character. The ability to handle hardship in an upright way will eventually lead to hope for the future.

I think of this quote summarized from Lao Tzu, “Be careful of your thoughts, for your thoughts become your words; Be careful of your words, for your words become your deeds; Be careful of your deeds, for your deeds become your habits; Be careful of your habits; for your habits become your character; Be careful of your character, for your character becomes your destiny.”



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