Over the last 37 years, I’ve hired dozens of church staff at many different levels of responsibility. I’ve learned to filter every potential team member through the five C’s: Calling, Character, Commitment, Competency and Chemistry. If you had to pick only one of these five, which one would you say is more important than all the rest? I know, they are all important. But, especially in a church, if one of these five is lacking, which one do you guess might cause the biggest problem?
You likely guessed it. Character. A person with a character flaw usually crashes and burns. Sooner or later. And a flameout often does a significant amount of collateral damage. We’ve all seen the heartbreaking ripple effects that result from character meltdowns among government, business, church or family leaders. Debris is spread over the terrain of the organization, family or community.
I recently read how one leader tests candidates being interviewed for a job. Walt Bettinger, CEO of the Charles Schwab Corporation has created a system. Before every new hire, Bettinger takes candidates out for a breakfast interview. But what the potential employees don’t know is that every time, Bettinger shows up early and asks the restaurant to purposefully mess up the order in exchange for a handsome tip. After all, a person’s character is revealed during times of great pressure and distress. How do they react when they are thrown an unpleasant curveball? I’ve never tried Bettinger’s interview method of testing character but it is interesting….and a bit tempting.
A couple weeks back, it was the thirtieth anniversary of our family’s move to Cape Coral, FL to start the adventure of launching a new church. I shared three leadership learnings from the past three decades. I promised more. This one is about the importance of character, especially during adversity.
I’ve seen character carry people through great pressure and disruption of plans. The test of adversity doesn’t make character as much as it reveals it. Here are two things I’ve learned about character – how it can make or break someone in marketplace domain or in the ministry arena.
Both big things and little things matter – Character certainly is connected to the obvious things like honesty, integrity and morality. I’ve noticed that we tend to think mostly about the large breaches of character such as stealing money, lying, immoral relationships or unethical practices. Over the decades of my leadership experience, I’ve had to deal with a very minimal amount of these things (for which I’m grateful). Much more frequently are the little things of character—not keeping promises, lack of follow-through, moral boundaries that shift with circumstances or crowd, late for meetings or deadlines, saying one thing but doing another or repeatedly missing the bar of excellence. Frankly, it’s the little things that most often lead to a subtle but steady erosion of character and trust. Little things slowly morph into bigger things. We should never forget what Jim Rohn said, “Success is nothing more than a few simple disciplines practiced every day.” Little things matter. Little things become big things.
Relationships are a big deal – Never underestimate the importance of relationships in all areas of life. Over the years, I’ve enjoyed many team members technically competent in ministry and some exceptionally talented in their area of expertise. Yet the truth is, character is recurrently displayed through interactions with people. Adversity will increase the pressure and stress during exchanges with others. One’s emotional intelligence will become evident to all. And for certain, if a team member’s world revolves around them, they think all their successes are because of their own accomplishments and all of their failures are somebody else’s fault. That character flaw will be exposed in daily work relationships. Relationships are a big deal.
Character is tested by adversity in leadership. Many other angles of character under fire could be explored in this “leadership learnings” series. After all, I have three to four decades full of examples I could share. But character also means I don’t distribute everything tucked in between the folds of my brain. Have a blessed day!
QUESTION: What would you add from your leadership learnings about character, especially while under adversity? I’d love to hear it in the comment section below. Thanks!