“Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.” – 1 Timothy 4:12
Integrity is more than just a word, particularly for leaders. Integrity matters.
Built day by day, year after year, integrity is in many ways our lifetime’s work, the sum of every decision we make (right or wrong) and every word we speak. Integrity doesn’t volunteer itself, but is instead hard-won, built over years of worthy effort and honed with truth and fairness. It is also fragile – difficult to build but easily demolished with even a single failing.
This is especially true for the current generation, many stepping into leadership roles for the first time. Perhaps as leader of a group at work, or leader of a youth ministry at church. Or even leader of their families.
Integrity, more than any single skill, trait or capability, often defines success or failure in life. Perhaps more than any other time in history, today’s young leaders are faced with more ways to bend the rules, skirt the edges of moral strength, and even redefine the very understanding of “right” and “wrong.” Moral relativism ultimately leads to a moral vacuum.
In the first letter to his protégé Ephesian pastor Timothy (1 Timothy), Paul writes to the emerging young leader about how to face the inevitable struggles he will face as an energetic new face in the church working with older Believers who may find difficulty following his leadership because of his relative inexperience.
What makes this Epistle so profound is how specific Paul is in his instruction on leadership. At the core of the letter, considered by many to be the most complete and detailed letter of instructions to the growing church following Jesus’ commissioning of his Apostles, is the concept of integrity. Paul advised Timothy on the practical matter of purity in leadership that should define Christian leaders and the congregations they shepherd.
And yes, secular business leaders can take a cue from this.
Leadership is built on trust, and trust is founded in the integrity of living each
day with discipline, honesty and good faith. If leaders follow this, they will be rewarded with the ingrained integrity habit and followers who believe in their leadership.
Wayne Oates, the American psychologist and educator who coined the term “workaholic,” once wrote “Maintaining your integrity in a world of sham is no small accomplishment.” In the words of Billy Graham, “Integrity is the glue that holds our way of life together.”
“An overseer … must be above reproach,” Paul wrote to Timothy, “… self-controlled, sensible, respectable, hospitable … not a bully but gentle, not quarrelsome, not greedy.”
Wise words to us all. If we follow them our integrity will take care of itself.