Trust is essential to effective leadership. You cannot consistently influence people to follow you with any sense of conviction, without first gaining their trust. Some leaders buy influence with “carrot and stick” methods to entice their team to follow, but they do not have the trust of their followers. Trust motivates. People, who trust their leader and respect him, will always give more of themselves to the cause. Those who have been coerced or manipulated to produce will only do their work half-heartedly. They have no sense of commitment to the cause. Their focus is either on gaining the “carrot” or avoiding the “stick”. The most effective and efficient leaders have the trust of their people because they are leaders with both character and competence.
But select from all the people some capable, honest men who fear God and hate bribes. Appoint them as leaders over groups of one thousand, one hundred, fifty, and ten. (Exodus 18:21)
Leadership capacity is a much different issue than character and competence. Not every leader has the capacity to be a leader of “one thousand”, but every leader of any size group can lead with character and competence. Leadership capacity comes with growth over time and with experience.
Character and competence are like alternating rungs on a leadership ladder. If you want to grow as a leader, you must equally grow in character and competence. Leaders are learners. As a Christian leader, always evaluate and learn from both your mistakes as well as your successes when it comes to character and competence. No one is perfect and you will probably have occasional lapses in either or both of these areas throughout the challenges you encounter as a leader. Be humble and teachable. Failure and the courage to admit mistakes and confess them are essential. Mistakes are an inevitable part of the growth journey, even in the areas of character and competence. Too often we rationalize our mistakes because it is extremely painful as a leader to admit a breach of character or competence. Call it for what it is, then repent and get back on track. God’s grace is amazing and fully sufficient to forgive you and sustain you.
When building your team and selecting future leaders, be sure to take seriously their track record in the areas of character and competence. Leaders who are always growing in both areas will climb to great heights of influence. Take time today to reflect on your own character and competence as a leader. How do you need to grow in these areas of your leadership?
“Trust is equal parts character and competence… You can look at any leadership failure, and it’s always a failure of one or the other.” ~ Stephen Covey