Integrity as Coherence
This post was written by Mel Lawrenz
[This article is part of the "spiritual leadership today" study/discussion going on this year. For all articles in the series, click the Spiritual Leadership tab at the top of the page. To have them delivered, subscribe to The Brook Letter]
So if a leader is convinced: “I need to have integrity, I want to build integrity in my life,” how does that happen? Our tendency is to think that integrity is established if a leader avoids the big, ugly stuff: no robbery, no sexual scandal, no cocaine use. But looking for disqualifying characteristics is only the crudest way of thinking of integrity. Integrity is a quality of life, and a process of living. It is a commitment to a whole-life process of constructing and reconstructing character, all with a background of humility in which the leader acknowledges just how far he or she falls short. Integrity is a task that is never finished.
The pursuit of integrity includes a growing coherence between public and private life. A leader who is one person in public and a completely different person in private is leading a disjointed life. If public persona contradicts private personhood then there is a danger, in a worst case scenario, that private corruption can be masked by the image of public life. It is almost too painful to recount how many times across the ages leaders have ridden a wave of public ascendancy and influence, all the while hiding a complete lack of character. Sometimes the farce is exposed, and oftentimes not.
Coherence of public and private does not mean that a leader can have no private life or that honesty and transparency requires that every detail of a leader’s private life be announced in public. Everyone needs a private life, and the fine details of personal struggles need to be shared with appropriate circles of confidants even though not broadcast far and wide. For all the complexities of balancing privacy and openness, the basic principle remains the same: those in positions of spiritual leadership cannot be one thing in public and an entirely different thing in private.
The pursuit of integrity includes a growing coherence within the leader himself or herself. Lack of integrity is often rooted in a splitting within a person of belief from behavior or intellect from will. It is the split person who can preach against sexual immorality while carrying on serial affairs. Those crises of integrity are what grab the headlines, but here is a frightening thought. A leader can be split in far subtler and less scandalous ways, but have just as profound a lack of integrity. Greed is hard to quantify, but it has been a serious compromise of the integrity of many leaders, including those in spiritual leadership. Greed can dress itself in the sanctimonious clothing of vision and godly ambition. But when greed is the driving energy of leadership, purer motives are choked out. The reason Jesus said one cannot serve God and mammon at the same time, is that integrity is sacrificed in the process. Divided allegiances mean no allegiance. Leaders who split who they are at the core of personality are living in a continual crisis of integrity and it is only a matter of time before the person or the leadership falls apart.
Integrity does not mean sinlessness. A far-from-perfect man was called by God to do one simple thing: be a shepherd. What he did with his skills was coherent with who he was in heart: “And David shepherded them with integrity of heart; with skillful hands he led them.”
What do you think? (comment below)
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This entry was posted on Thursday, April 14th, 2011 at 6:35 am and is filed under Spiritual Influence.
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