Redefining Character
It's more than what we do when no one is looking.

The spring issue of Leadership is just a few weeks away from the mailbox. The issue focuses upon the formation of the pastor's soul and character; the behind-the-scenes work of God in the lives of very public church leaders. Matt Branaugh, our colleague at Christianity Today International, recently attended a ministry conference where his assumptions about character were challenged. In this post he shares his new, broader, perspective on what a leader with character looks like.

"Our character," goes the quote often attributed to H. Jackson Browne, "is what we do when we think no one is looking." That's how I've typically defined character. But not anymore.

Last week, I heard Dr. Henry Cloud speak at Willow Creek's Children's Ministry Conference. The psychologist, author, and speaker said how we define character is at the core of understanding why leadership problems develop in the church and beyond. "Character equals the ability to meet the demands of reality," Cloud told the gathering of about 3,500 people.

Based upon his own research and consulting experience, Cloud said problems of character in situations he's asked to help repair rarely have to do with a lack of brains, competency, or even honesty with the leader.

Instead, he believes a leader with character displays these six traits:

1. You create and maintain trust by making sure your people know that you understand their opinions and concerns;

2. You view truthfulness as more than just honesty, genuinely longing to digest information and adjust to the realities around you;

3. You make a genuine effort to be results-oriented, and not just grace-oriented;

4. You embrace bad news. You get it and get moving;

5. You don't maintain your leadership abilities. You grow them.

6. You accept the question of transcendence - you say you're not God and act like it.

I agree with Cloud. Doing these things says a lot about the stuff we're made of in the volatile world of leadership. Plus, my previous definition seemed a little trite. Character should require more than just watching what I'm doing when no one else is looking.

Matt Branaugh is editor of Ministry Resources and BuildingChurchLeaders.com at Christianity Today International.

March 22, 2007

Displaying 1–2 of 2 comments

Carl Holmes

March 23, 2007  12:31pm

Character means remembering solo deo gloria in all things. If we remember that, all falls into place. If it glorifies anything else, we are falling short.

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John M.

March 23, 2007  7:52am

I think even the expanded definition is too narrow. I think character is also how one reacts when the going gets tough. Do we cave in to easy solutions, or do we do what we know is best? Examples: A husband may spend his whole life being a good leader, practicing personal integrity and keeping his thought life pure. But if one day he decides his marriage is just too hard to maintain and splits, that man lacks character. Character means alerting your employer to a problem you find, even if it will cause you more work, and even if ignoring it will cost you nothing. Character means forgoing instant gratification to build financial security for yourself and family. Etc. etc.

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