When I first joined the staff of Campus Crusade for Christ, Dr. Bill Bright, our president and founder, delivered our commissioning address. I had heard Dr. Bright speak many times before and he was known to stretch a speaking session beyond its limits with a few extra points. But you never missed the fact that he deeply loved Jesus and was passionate about the fulfillment of the Great Commission. So as he began his message that evening I settled in for what I was sure was going to be a 60 minute lecture. But he stunned us all when he had only one point and sat down after 20 minutes. There is probably a worthy principle there for effectiveness in public speaking. But his main point captured my attention and I have never forgotten it. Being is more important than doing. He knew he was addressing young, emerging leaders who were excited about the cause and irresistibly tempted to get at it-to produce. His message was a strong exhortation to value our inner spiritual life and character over the activity of leading.
It’s a recurring message for me. I am still tempted to value ministry activity over solitude-to value results over intimacy-to value veneer over substance. Slowly I am learning though that I can’t give what I don’t have. I am seeing that who I am actually speaks much louder than what I do. The value of being over doing reinforces leadership character. Character for me has three components: living with integrity, rightly handling authority, and applying diligence. But character has to be cultivated. It has to come from somewhere-from inner life practices over time. And by necessity it has to be tested in real life to be made strong.
A leader who is effective over time is one who develops these inner qualities. In my life these inner qualities are developed thorough applied knowledge, meaningful reflection, and active engagement. Applied knowledge means that we have to be stimulated in our mind-but it can’t be learning for learning’s sake. It has to be knowledge that changes us in some way-that penetrates deep enough to force application. Meaningful reflection means that we then take that knowledge-and other sources of experiential learning (like celebrations, trying times, set backs, success, failure)-and mine them for the “soulish” principles that cause us to choose. It is all too easy to let life hit us rather than reflect on life’s events in such a way that we actually choose to become different people. Active engagement means sharing your life in community. A leader alone is a disaster waiting to happen. Inner life principles are worked out in community. We need the sounding board of others and their observations on our life and leading to become better people-and better leaders. This is often hard for leaders because to appear vulnerable is to appear weak. But nothing could be farther from the truth. Statistics show that followers have a deeper sense of trust toward authentic leaders. For me as a follower of Christ all of this means taking advantage of the means of grace that God has given through his Holy Spirit, theBible, prayer, and biblical community.
My point here is not that there is only one way to get at the being side of leading-but that it is absolutely important enough in the life of a leader to give it your full attention-today!
The essence of a leader’s character is a life that moves others to follow. That life will be forged in our inner world-in our being-not our doing.