Last week I told you the story about my insensitivity in telling a story about being late to a woman who was late for unavoidable purposes. I had feared she might have taken it wrong and that wasn’t my intention. After I emailed her about my concerns – she sent me this story.
“I recently met with a networking contact, an established leader. I was right on time, and he was there waiting for me. I casually asked what time he had gotten there and it was 30 minutes earlier. He went on to say that earlier in his career he had met regularly with an established leader, and every time he arrived, that person was already there. He would come earlier and earlier, but could not beat this other person to the meeting place. He finally asked, and that person said that he would never be beaten. It was his way of showing respect. I thought that was such a picture of a leader with humility, besides all the practical reasons for being early rather than late.”
I love her story – and being early does indeed embody humility. We put ourselves second in order to make sure we honor the person we are with when we arrive early. If we can do it for an airplane, how much more should we do it for someone we either want to develop a relationship with or someone we already have a relationship with. It’s all about integrity.
There will always be decisions you have to make based on situations you face. Having integrity of heart – wholeness in following God’s call on our lives – helps you make the right decisions and take actions that align with Jesus teaching.
Take a moment and read the account of Ruth, Naomi, and Boaz in the Bible (Book of Ruth). Talk about a fork in the road! You and your family move to another country, then your husband dies. Not long after that, your two sons also die and you are left with two widowed daughters-in-law. So you pack up and move back to your homeland, and you encourage your daughters-in-law to return to their country since they would have no hope of marrying again if they stayed with you. One returns and the other—Ruth—chooses to stay with you. Ruth, in essence, says, “Even it if it costs me my future, I will do the right thing—I will not leave you”. How hard it must have been for Ruth to leave her homeland, go to a strange country, and follow a God she did not know. But because of the testimony of Naomi’s integrity of heart, Ruth did so.
Boaz also had a choice. He had heard all that Ruth had done for Naomi, and he praised her for it. Boaz was a redeemer—a close member of the family who, in that culture, could marry and redeem (or save) Ruth. But there was a closer relative who could have redeemed Ruth, so Boaz went to him and offered both Ruth and the land Naomi was selling. When that relative would not risk his own inheritance by redeeming Ruth and the land, Boaz became the redeemer.
Boaz called Ruth a woman of character and eventually married her. Ruth, Naomi, and Boaz led with integrity of heart. They knew God and did what was right in His eyes. Ruth was rewarded for her faith and integrity, as God placed her in the genealogy of Jesus Christ.
What integrity fork in the road are you facing today? How will you lead with integrity of heart?
*excerpt from The Dichotomy of Power, by Nancy Reece
* originally written for www.LeadLikeJesus.com/blogs
Setting for the Sermon on the Mount
As I mentioned in my last blog, one of my favorite thought leaders is Dan Webster. Dan has a workbook called The Real Deal – Becoming More Authentic and Life and Leadership. I’ve lead teams through it and done it personally 3 times over a twelve year period. It has had a deep and profound effect on how I lead and who I am. One of my favorite thoughts from Dan is this one:
“Am I impacting people because they admire my leadership savvy and skills or are they impacted by my character and the beauty of my soul?”
When I first read that question, it had a huge impact on me – making me think and reflect on whether I had substituted image for character and integrity. While I certainly want my teaching, coaching and consulting to have an impact, I realize that I want my character and integrity to be at the forefront. I want the larger impact of my life to be because I truly loved and respected others, valuing the dignity of all – because I lived, loved and Lead Like Jesus.
Shirley Sherrod, an official with the USDA, was asked to resign via blackberry by Tom Vilsack based on an initial video and report of racism. I’m sure the spectre of media coverage sent panic through the USDA office, causing them to act in haste. Secretary Vilsack issued an apology today and offered her a new position. But the entire incident has some lessons for any leaders who want to operate with integrity.
(1) When accusations are made, take the time – despite media pressure – to get the facts straight. That includes interviewing all parties involved before making a decision.
(2) If you find wrong doing, take action to rectify the situation. If you find no wrong doing, have the courage to stand up for what’s right. In either case, craft your talking points carefully.
(3) Ms. Sherrod shared about lessons she’d personally learned about discrimination. Yet her words could have been better chosen. In today’s culture of media, YouTube, and video cameras on phones, careful planning of speeches and words is essential.
(3) We live in world where anyone can doctor a video clip, spin facts or distort the truth. Critical thinking and careful analysis of any issue we are researching is critical. Consider the source of the information – is it reliable? Is the source known for integrity?
We’re all human and make mistakes – this is one mistake on the part of Secretary Vilsack we can learn from.
The number one way you build trust and respect as a leader is by making the hard call – choosing to match your actions with your words – leading with integrity. Take this short test and see how you do.
Do you do what you say you will do? No is not an option. Failing to follow through with promises or not making your actions match your words causes a huge loss of respect and trust.
Do your employees trust you to make the hard call? To do what’s right? Hard calls are tough because our values are colliding, fear is present and we’re taking a risk. Putting fear on hold and making the hard call builds trust and empowers your employees to do the same.
Do you help your employee’s reach their full potential? This means you want them to do well and be all they can be. It also means you invest in them and hold them accountable to reach high standards of performance.
Do you prove that you know the difference between a mistake and a poor choice? A poor choice occurs when we know what not to do(or should know) and do it anyway. A mistake is an error – not a choice.
Do you admit mistakes and poor choices openly and transparently? Don’t let the fear of looking vulnerable keep you from admitting your mistakes and failures – it will actually build trust and respect.
Do you speak words of appreciation to employees? Research indicates praise needs to happen every 7 days if you want employees to know their value to your business.
In the coming weeks, I’ll be blogging on each of these questions. Share your thoughts on which of these areas is most challenging for you.