My son, pay attention to what I say; turn your ear to my words. Do not let them out of your sight, keep them within your heart; for they are life to those who find them and health to one’s whole body. Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it. Keep your mouth free of perversity; keep corrupt talk far from your lips. Let your eyes look straight ahead; fix your gaze directly before you. Give careful thought to the paths for your feet and be steadfast in all your ways. Do not turn to the right or the left; keep your foot from evil. – Proverbs 4:20-27.
When we center our lives on correct principles, we become more balanced, unified, organized, anchored, and rooted. We have a foundation for all activities, relationships, and decisions. We also have a sense of stewardship about everything in our lives, including time, talents, money, possessions, relationships, our families, and our bodies. We recognize the need to use them for good purposes and, as a steward, to be accountable for their use.
Centering on principles provides sufficient security to not be threatened by change, comparisons, or criticisms; guidance to discover our mission, define our roles, and write our scripts and goals; wisdom to learn from our mistakes and seek continuous improvement; and power to communicate and cooperate, even under conditions of stress and fatigue.
Security represents our sense of worth, identity, emotional anchorage, self-esteem, and personal strength. Of course, we see various degrees of security – on a continuum between a deep sense of high intrinsic worth on one end and an extreme insecurity on the other, wherein a person’s life is buffeted by all the fickle forces that play upon it. – Isaiah 26:3-4.
Guidance is the direction we receive in life. Much of it comes from the standards, principles, or criteria that govern our decision making and doing. This internal monitor serves as a conscience. People who operate on the low end of the guidance continuum tend to have strong physical addictions and emotional dependencies, conditioned by their centering on selfish, sensual, or social life-styles. The middle of the continuum represents development of the social conscience – the conscience educated and cultivated by centering on human institutions, traditions, and relationships. On the high end of the continuum is the spiritual conscience, wherein guidance comes from inspired or inspiring sources – a compass centered on true principles. – Proverbs 3:5-6.
Wisdom suggests a sage perspective on life, a sense of balance, a keen understanding of how the various parts and principles apply and relate to each other. It embraces judgement, discernment, comprehension. It is a oneness, an integrated wholeness. At the low end of the wisdom continuum are inaccurate maps, which cause people to base their thinking on distorted, discordant principles. The high end represents an accurate and complete life compass wherein all the parts and principles are properly related to each other. As we move toward the high end, we have an increasing sense of the ideal (things as they should be) as well as a sensitive practical approach to realities (things as they are). Wisdom also includes the ability to discern pure joy as distinct from temporary pleasure. – Proverbs 8:12-16 & 32 – 36.
Power is the capacity to act, the strength and courage to accomplish something. It is the vital energy to make choices and decisions. It also represents the capacity to overcome deeply embedded habits and to cultivate higher, more effective habits. At the low end of the power continuum we see people who are essentially powerless, insecure, products of what happens or has happened to them. They are largely dependent on circumstances and on others. They are reflections of other people’s opinions and directions; they have no real comprehension of true joy and happiness. At the high end of the continuum we see people with vision and discipline, whose lives are functional products of personal decisions rather than of external conditions. These people make things happen; they are proactive; they choose their responses to situations based upon timeless principles and universal standards. They take responsibility for their feelings, moods, and attitudes as well as their thoughts and actions. – 2 Kings 1:1-17.
These four factors – security, guidance, wisdom, and power – are interdependent. Security and well-founded guidance bring true wisdom, and wisdom becomes the spark or catalyst to release and direct power. When these four factors are harmonized, they create the great force of noble personality, a balanced character, a beautifully integrated individual.
Above all these four principles, Security, Guidance, Wisdom and Power; Character is the greatest element of leadership principle. of The issue of character is debated hotly in leadership circles today. Traditionally, character has been defined as the moral constitution of a person. Popular descriptions today are, what you are when no one is looking or who you are in the dark. In other words, character reveals the true substance of a person – who that person really is, day in and day out, in good times and bad times – over the course of a lifetime. Contrary to some opinions, character is not one’s title, role, or position.
Leadership is not a position, it is a lifestyle. Those who have made the greatest mistakes are leaders who have assumed that their position was more important than their lifestyle. For some of them, the consequences have been tragic.
Some years ago, America dealt with the sexual improprieties that occurred by President Bill Clinton with an intern in the White House. A resulting impeachment trial did not lead to any conviction, but perhaps a greater verdict was rendered to the nation. The notion that character was essential to leadership was muted by the message sent that popularity and prosperity had become the defining measures of a good leader. But character is the essence of leadership. Several news items still fill the screens and airwaves about leaders whose character flaws have led to their downfall and sometimes the collapse of companies and nations they lead.
Trusted leaders seek to be consistent in their lives publicly and privately, are authentic in their concern for their followers, and are true to their word.
Leaders cannot lead unless they have the full trust of their followers. When that trust is betrayed, support is withdrawn.
Leaders cultivate character by acquiring wisdom and understanding. These of course come at a great price because they require the kind of dedicated and patient leaders must diligently “search” for wisdom treasures covered by the layers of earth and rock.
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