Character is a foundational quality of a great leader. When it is absent, trust evaporates.
We need go no further than the American political scene or the Catholic Church to prove this. Coverups and lies have undermined our trust in leadership for both institutions.
Closer to home, too many of us have experienced a spiritual leader who hides the truth or speaks out of both sides of his or her mouth. (I know that’s an old saying but it aptly describes telling one person one thing and another the opposite. At its root it is simply lying.) Such maneuvers may be motivated by peacemaking or fear, but they breed distrust. Sometimes little lies take a long time to surface publicly, but God has a way of bringing such fundamental character flaws to light in his time. But way before that, many of the dishonest leader’s followers have gone away.
Why are we so afraid to speak the truth that we lie to one person or the other—especially in the church?
No fear of people, desire to please, or effort to keep the peace is worth sowing distrust among your church, staff, leadership team, audience, small group, family, or tribe. It is not worth it!
At one time I worked with a minister who kept certain members of his team in the dark about what he was doing because he didn’t think they would like it and didn’t want conflict. Recently one of those team members described him as difficult to work with. I guess so! Eventually he was reassigned to a position where he no longer led a team. By that time, his team distrusted everything he said.
Leaders must be trusted—and you don’t have to be a pastor or minister to be a leader. You may be a small group or team leader, elder, mentor, parent, or friend. Every leader must speak truth, even if it means having difficult conversations.
I hate difficult conversations, but I hate coverups and lying far more. So as hard as it is, I aim to speak the truth in love. There have been times when I have had to go back and correct my words to do so.
Your team needs to know that you have their back. You stand up for them and their authority when others try to dissuade you from the decision. If you have given someone a job, let her do it, and support her decisions. That earns not only that person’s respect, but you can be sure that many others will hear about your actions either way. Of course, there may be things you lead your team member to learn or improve—communication, culture, implementing change, etc. But support her as a decision-maker unless it is something that simply can’t be supported.
Those whom you lead deserve the truth, even when it means that they don’t like you for speaking it. You undermine your credibility every time you fail to follow up your words.
If you can’t be trusted, you lose the respect needed for leadership.