The experiences I’ve had over the years in the business word, academia, and other areas show me over and over just how important leadership is. Among all the skills that might matter in a leader, I have found that character is key. One can have the best technology, the best financial skills, the best market plan, the best patents, and still destroy all hope for real success if the leader of the operation lacks integrity or can’t listen to others or is dripping with arrogance. There are counterexamples, I know, but it’s amazing how often character issues are what make or break the success of an enterprise. Of course, other skills are needed as well. Good character coupled with good business sense and several other skills works best.
Character matters for all of us. I think it is especially important for our political leaders, where the temptations that go with massive power can lead to so much harm, not just nationally, but globally. While this post is NOT about the presidential campaign, I’ll note that one of my most difficult moments as bishop some years ago was during a presidential election when I was asked by the Church to read the Church’s statement – I think it was about political neutrality – from the pulpit. The statement reminded us that the Church does not endorse any particular candidate and then had the audacity to refer to a passage of scripture (Doctrine and Covenants, Section 98) about the need to seek elected leaders who are “wise,” “honest” and “good.” It was so hard for me to keep a straight face when I read that given my personal feelings about some of the candidates at the time. I don’t think life has gotten any easier for bishops since then.
Here is part of Section 98:
6 Therefore, I, the Lord, justify you, and your brethren of my church, in befriending that law which is the constitutional law of the land;
7 And as pertaining to law of man, whatsoever is more or less than this, cometh of evil.
8 I, the Lord God, make you free, therefore ye are free indeed; and the law also maketh you free.
9 Nevertheless, when the wicked rule the people mourn.
10 Wherefore, honest men and wise men should be sought for diligently, and good men and wise men ye should observe to uphold; otherwise whatsoever is less than these cometh of evil.
Wise words indeed!
As a nation, our respect for personal integrity and moral character seems to be at a low. Scoundrels can be our celebrities, our leaders, and our heroes, and those who are uncomfortable with that are often put down for being judgmental and intolerant. Ultimately, it was the moral character – in spite of many flaws – among our Founding Fathers that propelled them to risk their lives and their fortunes for the freedom of this land. It is the moral character of wise leaders that we need more than ever in business, in politics, in religion, and our own families and lives.
Character is especially critical for religious leaders. A leader can be great in administration and record keeping, but if he or she loses the trust of the people, effectiveness is shot and great harm can be done. All mortals are fallible, of course, so this sometimes happens – tragically.
Character matters. The rest can be learned or, to be more trendy, outsourced.