Two Unchanging Needs for a Leader
In the midst of these changing threats and shifting priorities, the need for men and women with integrity and character will not change. These two attributes are often taken as one, but integrity is the more specific. Proverbs 13:6 states, “Righteousness guards the man of integrity.” Integrity comes from a Latin root meaning completeness or wholeness.
A man or woman of integrity envisions and expresses himself or herself as a whole person-intellectually, physically, culturally, and spiritually. Many of us emphasize one or another of these aspects of our existence, but our best service and effectiveness can be realized when we have blended excellence in all these areas of our personal and professional lives.
The leadership challenges of the future will place a high premium on integrity. Our leaders must be intellectually competent to evaluate enormous amounts of often conflicting information arriving simultaneously. Critical thinking and decisiveness will be increasingly important on the dynamic battlefield. Physically, leaders will need high energy, strength and endurance for the demands of continuous long-term operations.
Leaders will be challenged culturally as they serve with men and women from diverse domestic and international cultures, often working side by side for long hours in unfamiliar environments. Spiritually, our leaders will be required to make decisions in ambiguous situations that challenge the sanctity of life and the rule of sovereign law over human affairs.
We are told in Luke 2:52 that Jesus “grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.” Clearly, the words of Scripture show that He developed and matured intellectually (in wisdom), physically (in stature), culturally (with men), and spiritually (with God). He was a leader of deep integrity and is our ultimate example. Even the Pharisees said to Him, “Teacher, we know you are a man of integrity” (Mark 12:14).
When leaders adequately integrate these aspects of their professional and personal lives, they will be people of integrity. Our nation will continue to need men and women of integrity to lead our future soldiers, airmen, sailors, and marines.
Character has been defined as what we are when no one is looking. One of the most important ingredients of character is a personal commitment to ruthless honesty. Tell the truth without hesitation. Military leaders of character need to be trusted without question, for ambiguities of the battlefield will not tolerate shading the truth. The lives of our peers and subordinates are at stake.
Another important ingredient is leading by example. Military leadership carries with it legal authority, but leaders must earn the respect of those they command. They earn it by leading by example. Whether training for a major exercise or inspecting troops before a battle, leaders of character are present with their subordinates, leading them.
Servant-leaders will be known by their selfless service and genuine concern for their subordinates. Much of that goal will be accomplished by telling the truth without hesitation and by leading by example.
Although we have separated integrity and character, in practice they are virtually inseparable. Christian leaders of character possess all of these attributes, not in their own strength, but in the absolute lordship of Jesus Christ. The call to the Christian in military service is not a call to abandon one’s vocation, but to do everything “as unto the Lord,” to actually do it for Christ himself. Above all, the leaders live a transparent life of sacrificial devotion to their Lord, their families, their troops and profession.
The life of the military leader is one of sacrifice. Just as we are frequently expected to sacrifice for others, the Christian leader looks to Jesus as the perfect example of one who sacrificed His life for His friends.
We can anticipate and plan for some of the future challenges, but many are beyond our ability to ever imagine. What we do know, however, is that even with the complex and changing demands, there will be the unchanging requirement for integrity, the integration of all aspects of life-intellectual, physical, cultural and spiritual-into a consistent commitment, and for character, leading with honesty and selfless service.
David, the Old Testament king, was a soldier of extraordinary leadership ability. He was recognized as intelligent, physically strong, and socially graceful. He is best known, though, for his humble reliance on his Sovereign Lord: “I am under vows to you, O God; I will present my thank offerings to you” (Ps. 56:11).
Christian leaders model David in the sense that they alone have the Spirit of God living in them. That is a power that only God can give, and it is a power that can transform the world, even the twenty-first century world of uncertainty, complexity, and fear. Throughout their lifetime, Christian leaders of integrity and character have the supreme joy of knowing that their service for others is ultimately an act of worship for their Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ.