Leadership Character for a Lifetime

Leadership Character for a Lifetime

By Steve Downs

Several recent leadership studies have asked the question, “What is the most important quality or characteristic of a good leader”?   The answer these respondents provided may surprise you.  The overwhelming majority said that integrity or character was the most important quality of a good and effective leader.

Good integrity (character) takes a lifetime to build and a moment to destroy.   We see this tragic reality in the lives of leaders all around us on a regular basis.    

When I study leadership integrity in the Bible, I think of Daniel.  Daniel lived 25 centuries ago and was a leader who could have despaired and given up if he had only focused on the circumstances of his life.  He was one of thousands of fellow countrymen who had been deported to a foreign land after Judah had been conquered by Babylon.  He found himself under the authority of evil egocentric rulers and surrounded by corrupt and depraved idolaters.  Instead of giving up or compromising his integrity, Daniel held fast to his faith in God.  Despite the discouraging and disheartening circumstances all around him, Daniel knew without a doubt that God was sovereign and working out His plan in the nations and through individuals.

As I study the life of Daniel, I observe that he maintained a life of leadership integrity in spite of the culture all around him that seemed to discourage it at every turn (much like the world we live in today).  Below are five ways Daniel deepened and displayed his integrity in his day.

  1. When faced with difficult choices, be willing to stand firm in your beliefs - Several times in the book of Daniel, we see that he made very tough choices.  When faced with difficult situations or circumstances, even though his choice might have resulted in potential deadly penalties, Daniel stood his ground and remained true to his faith.
  2. Treat those in authority over you and those in adversarial relationships with dignity and respect - King Nebuchadnezzar issued an edict that all the wise men (Daniel was one of them) be killed because no one could interpret his dream.  Daniel appealed to the King in Chapter 2 with great wisdom and tact.  By God’s grace, his actions averted certain death for he and many others.
  3. Build the moral compass of your life around Jesus – The story of Daniel vividly displays how he kept his deep commitment to and trust in God even though he lived in an evil, corrupt, and pagan world.  The world we live in today is just as evil and corrupt as in Daniel’s days.  We must stand firm in our faith in Jesus and build our belief system and values around the promises and truths found in God’s Word.  
  4. Handle the seemingly small things of life with consistency – At the advice of some of his advisors, who were trying to eliminate Daniel, King Darius decreed that all the people of the land were to worship him and him alone for 30 days.  Anyone refusing to worship the King would be killed by being thrust into the Lion’s Den.  For decades, Daniel had openly prayed three times a day to the one true God.  Daniel could have easily cut corners by taking a break or praying in secret for 30 days.  However, he chose not to compromise his beliefs and commitment to prayer and continued to pray openly to God.  As a result, he was arrested and thrown into the Lion’s Den.  However, God honored his faith and commitment and delivered him from the ravenous lions.
  5. Understand that people will either support you or turn on you when you live with integrity – several government officials respected and supported Daniel as he continually responded with integrity and character in all he said and did.  However, many more became jealous of Daniel and were offended by his integrity.  They turned on him and wanted him eliminated.

Character that will sustain you for a lifetime of leadership begins and ends with God.  The world will attempt to distract you and pull you in many directions.  But always allow God to draw you back to Him and make your path clear and straight.  

A key verse that will guide you in your pursuit of integrity is found in Proverbs 4:23-27, “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is a wellspring of life.  Put away perversity from your mouth, keep corrupt talk far from your lips.  Let your eyes look straight ahead, fix your gaze directly before you.  Make level paths for your feet and take only the ways that are firm.  Do not swerve to the right or the left, keep your foot from evil.”

Leadership integrity is crucial in these evil and corrupt days.  Make a commitment to stand firm and remain true to your faith in Jesus and integrity will manifest itself in every leadership role you undertake.  

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1 Comment

Mike Saba - May 26th, 2023 at 6:06am

Steve, excellent Blog and very thought provoking. I agree with you completely on your idea that striving for good character is not always popular with others. Well written!




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