Friday, January 15, 2010

Max De Pree, in his book Leadership Jazz, suggests that 'faithfulness' is both more important and logically prior to 'success' for a leader. He writes: [In a faithful leader] integrity in all things precedes all else. The open demonstration of integrity is essential. Followers must be wholeheartedly convinced of their leader's integrity.

Later he writes: Though I'm still learning things about being a leader, I can tell you at least two requirements of such a position: The need to give one's witness as a leader (to make your promises to the poeple who allow you to lead), and the necessity of carrying out your promises.

Later again: Many of us privately make promises. We promise ourselves to lose weight, work harder, or finish a book. If we don't keep this kind of promise, we can usually find a reason, sometimes even a good reason. But followers can't afford leaders who make casual promises. Someone is likely to take them seriously. Leaders make public promises. They put themselves on the line to the people they lead.

These words strike me. I want to be a person of integrity first, then a leader of integrity. I have found a disturbing tendency over the recent few years to make casual commitments and promises. I cringe when I think of how often I have forgotten to something I said I would do.... or got distracted from it until it was to late.

As a parent of young children, I try to teach them the importance of teling the truth. 'You want people to be able to believe you when you say something. You don't want people to disbelieve you when you say something.' How true is that for leaders! Leadership is, first of all, character. Because leadership is built on trust.

So my first priority as a leader is to cultivate the virtue of always - ALWAYS - doing what I say. If I take on a task, do it with excellence within the agreed time frame. Call it follow-through. Call it keeping promises. Call it what you will. Without this kind of self-discipline a 'leader' has no integrity and therefore can never be truly a leader.

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