The Character Crisis that can Chase People Away

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This week I’m in Florida with my Willow Creek Association teammates, along with several hundred U.S. Summit host pastors. This is the official launch of the 2016 Global Leadership Summit season, but it is also something far more than that.

In reconnecting with these leaders this week, it has reminded what can be accomplished when you have leaders rooted in the highest caliber of character. To a person, the leaders represented at this gathering embody a strength of character that is helping to drive the GLS movement to astonishing heights.

And it has raised a question with which every leaders must contend:

“What character traits are the biggest obstacles for leaders to overcome?”

Perhaps the best answer to this question I have ever heard came from Bill Hybels, who addressed this very issue in a leadership coaching session last year.

Bill talked about two qualities in leaders that will chase people away.

1.       “People can’t stand dishonesty in their leader.”

As Bill talked about this, in my own notes I jotted down that the real danger is rarely in the telling of bald-face lies. For most leaders dishonesty seeps in through the most subtle of statements and actions. Some of the most common include:

  • Chronic lateness
    • “I’ll meet you tomorrow at 9:00 am.” Then you show up at 9:10.
    • Some leaders will dismiss their chronic tardiness as a reflection merely of their demanding schedule. But it ultimately communicates dishonesty.
  • Consistent lack of follow-through
    • “I’ll call you next week.” And no call is made.
    • When you consistently fail to follow through on even the smallest of commitments people come to doubt any commitment you make.

2.       “People can’t stand arrogance in their leader.”

Here I wrote down that such arrogance usually reveals itself in the smallest, but deadliest, forms of subtle behavior and speech.

  • The White-Knight complex
    • Implicitly, or explicitly, some leaders make it sound like they had ridden in on a stallion and had single-handedly rescued the organization from certain doom.
    • People withdraw their support from such leaders.

Consider using this checklist to form your own character audit.

Because if you can catch these indicators when they’re relatively small, you can avoid a full-blown character crisis later on.

How do you prevent these character crises from seeping into your leadership?

the author

Scott Cochrane

Vice President- International, Willow Creek Association. Love Jesus, Nora, Adam & Robin, Amy, Dave & Willow and John, Fiona & Will. Lifelong learner.

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