So he shepherded them according to the integrity of his heart,
And guided them with his skillful hands.
Psalm 78:72 (NASB)
On a recent day alone with God, I read Dave Kraft’s book, “Leaders Who Last.” As you would expect in a book that focuses on what it takes to run the leadership race with resilience, there was a chapter on character. We all know that character counts, especially in the life of the spiritual leader. But Kraft’s insights caused me to rethink the connection between character and competence. As leaders, we can’t reach our full capacity unless we are continually growing in both character and competence. It’s not either/or, it’s both/and. In the words of the above Psalm, it requires integrity of heart and skillful hands.
It seems like every month or so we find ourselves grieving over some high-profile leader who has crashed and burned because his character didn’t keep pace with his competence. In the words of Fred Smith, “When leaders fail, more often it is a result of a character flaw than a lack of competence.”
However, that doesn’t negate the importance of continually growing in our competencies and skills. To remain effective over the long haul, leaders absolutely must be learners. As Dave Kraft worded it, “When you’re through learning, your through.”
Dr. Greg Bourgond, a professor at Bethel Seminary said, “Leadership competency may be the tool of effective leadership, but biblically informed character has always been the power of effective leadership.” I love tools, so that analogy works for me! To build something requires the right tools, but also the power to operate the tools.
My son, Mark, is a marketing representative for Ryobi and Ridgid tools. Because of that connection, I have a wonderful collection of 18-volt battery operated tools. I’ve been spoiled by the convenience of being able to work on a project and not have to drag around extension cords. But here’s the thing; when the battery is dead, so is the tool.
You get the picture. Character is the battery and competencies are the tools. You need both to accomplish anything significant and lasting. Character + Competence = Capacity.