GTSH6/7 Nurturing the Character

Leaders Nurture the Character

But as for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. 1 Timothy 6:11-12

Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us. Philippians 3:17

Nurturing Leaders come alongside Others

According to Stacy E. Hoehl, writing in The Journal of Biblical Perspectives in Leadership (Summer 2011) Paul and Timothy display a relationship in which Paul nurtures Timothy’s character and equips him for his calling.

“In the New Testament, the apostle Paul exemplifies a mentor relationship with Timothy. Throughout the duration of this relationship, Paul ensures that Timothy is the right person for the job, equips him for ministerial tasks, empowers him for success, employs him in a challenging environment to develop effectiveness, and communicates to Timothy the value of their relationship.”  

Paul came alongside and apprenticed Timothy as he sought to lead him to maturity as a servant of God. He nurtured Timothy’s character and in so doing encouraged him hold to Christ-like values and allow them to work out in the way he lived. He also reinforced Timothy’s growth by recognising his achievements and commending him. Additionally we know from Paul’s Epistles that he sought to live with integrity before God and so invited others to follow his example. Thus he made himself a role model for Timothy.

More generally we can see that Paul nurtured the character of those that he led in mission and was an example, a role model to all whom he led. It meant that he was aware of and developed his own character so as to be a worthy, godly model.

Coaching, which we will look at shortly, is a means for a leader to come long side and nurture an individual. Similarly the BOOST feedback model that we looked at in Leading with Insight will be helpful.

Nurturing Leaders have Integrity

Integrity has two major facets: honesty and consistency, both are necessary for a leader to be considered trustworthy and have a solid foundation upon which to build relationships with others. Lack of trustworthiness and lack of integrity undermine the leader, because those they lead and seek to nurture will neither respect nor trust them.

At one level integrity is about doing what you say you will do.  This requires the additional factor of competence. You may intend to fulfil your promise but if you do not have the necessary skills and authority then you are unable to do so, regardless of your intent.  The result is that your word has no value. Therefore, as leaders, we must be careful about what we promise to do, not overstepping our ability through arrogance, carelessness or pride. When a need is beyond us must remember that in a collaborative framework we are able to call upon others for help.

Integrity requires more than just doing what you say you will do. A criminal can do that.  Honesty is a requirement and this means more than just telling the truth.  A criminal can say he will commit a particular crime and do it, but his enterprise will still be dishonest. So integrity also requires a foundation of honesty. Without honesty your word also has no value.

Another aspect that determines trustworthiness is how you use your power. If you are self-serving and exploit your power to serve yourself then no-one will trust what you say.

Lack of honesty and integrity, and the miss-use of power, are behaviours that Jesus stood against. His example and teaching showed these characteristics to be quite contrary to the sacrificial servant heart that is modelled on him.

Nurturing Leaders Affirm and Defend Others

In a Christian environment truth is to be a core a value and the idea of truth encompasses reality.

An exemplary, Christ-centred leader will affirm those who tell the truth and not hide from inconvenient realities that are brought into the light. Affirmation means standing with the individual concerned encouraging them and supporting them in the event of a backlash. But words also need to be supported by action and so the affirming leader will also act on the truth when necessary. This may mean that they must intercede on behalf of the individual concerned, standing on their behalf between them and whoever may be in authority.

The Christian leader will also seek to maintain standards by living out ethical and Biblical values and principles and therefore, support and defend others who do this. Living out such values can be a challenging and difficult thing to do, especially when it flies in the face of poor organisational culture. This is why giving appropriate support to those who are lead is important. It is an outworking of integrity as words and deeds align.

Nurturing Leaders Treat Others with Dignity

Because the Christian leader is modelling their character on Christ they will seek to treat others as he would. This means recognising them as valued people, individuals in their own right and precious to God. As such the leader will encourage their passions, respect their opinions and celebrate their accomplishments.

Note too, that Jesus never abused or demeaned anyone, not even the Pharisees whom he had to take to task.  Think too of his reaction to Judas. Jesus knew what he was about to do but he showed no animosity towards him.  Our treatment of others is a reflection of our hearts and our hearts are to be filled with Christ. If this is a reality for us then the way we treat others will be a positive and glorious testimony of God to others.

According to the Oxford English Dictionary “dignity” is defined as “The state or quality of being worthy of honour or respect:” So if, as we shall see when we look at the next leadership practice,  as individuals we are so very important to God then it is only right that we treat each other with dignity. Not because fallen, natural man is worthy of such honour but because God chooses to treat men with dignity.  Therefore, we should echo God’s values through our own love and respect for others.

Nurturing Leaders are a Role Model

To be a role model means to live out one’s values before others as an example, especially in those “moments of truth” when things get tough or a crisis arises, and we respond reactively, with no time for thought. In these moments our true values will inevitably be made visible. Because it is the example of our actions that people follow not our words, we must hold to Godly, Christ-like, Biblical values and ensure that our words match our values and our deeds match our words.

Words about values alone are not enough, the values need to be visibly lived out; “the talk needs to be walked” before those whom we lead.

Reflections

  • Take a Moment:  Consider one or two of the people that you lead.
    • Do you nurture them?
    • What steps will you take to nurture their character?
       
  • Take a Moment: Does it frighten you to think that others model themselves on you, whether you like it or not?
    • What are you values? (look back to the earlier exercise)
    • How well do you think you live them out?
    • Ask a trusted confident how well they think you live out your declared values?

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