The personal integrity of politicians, preachers, and other community leaders is everyone’s business because it affects the integrity of government, the church, and other organizations necessary for the health and wholeness of a community, nation, and world.
Yesterday Donna and I were watching an episode of the Lone Ranger. I think it safe to say that it’s been well over 30 years since I’ve watched an episode of the Lone Ranger. Lone Ranger reruns were one of my favorite shows when I was a small boy. The masked man and his buddy, Tonto, could handle any situation.
In the episode we watched yesterday, the Lone Ranger and Tonto observed a successful and prominent banker from town riding in the desert. They followed him from a distance because it was unusual for such a man to be riding alone in the desert. They needed to see why.
The banker met a group of armed masked men and gave them an envelope of money. Shortly after the meeting the Lone Ranger and Tonto confronted the banker. The banker told them the matter was none of their business. The Lone Ranger replied with something to this effect: “It is my business because the integrity of a community’s bank is important to the community.” The Lone Ranger’s explicit implication was that if something in the banker’s life called his integrity into question, then the integrity of the bank was in question, and if the bank lacked integrity, the community would suffer.
If we lead an important organization, then our personal integrity matters. If people count on the organization we lead for health and wholeness, then our private lives and integrity matter. The personal integrity of the President of the United States of America matters, because the integrity of our government matters. The same goes for all politicians. The integrity of ministers and pastors matter because the integrity of the church is important to a community and the individuals who find spiritual community through the church.
It is my business when a church, government, or community leader acts immorally. It is my business when they lack integrity. It is my business to call them out and ask for accountability. Why? Because their lack of integrity strips integrity from the organization they lead.
In recent decades, immoral presidents have weakened the integrity of our nation. Their private sins were the business of every American. Many said the president’s private immorality was not the business of the public. In fact, I remember a president and presidential candidates in the last 3 decades who have stated that their private lives were not important to the execution of their duties. Not so. I will agree, everyone need not be privy to ugly details, but accountability structures must be in place to disqualify an individual from leadership when necessary.
We need to strike a balance on this topic. As a leader I need and want a private life. The kind of ice cream I like, the size of my shoes, how much of my salary I save, private family conversations, relational challenges, etc., are examples of things that are my own business; but, when immorality is involved in the private life of a leader it damages the integrity of an organization important to the health of a community.
I know many definitions of morality exist and people disagree upon what is moral and what is immoral. This is why our government lacks integrity that it may never regain, because our nation cannot agree on what is and is not moral.
When a leader lies, cheats, steals, is sexually immoral, or generally lacks integrity, it directly affects everyone they influence. As a leader, how can I guard my integrity? Following are 5 quick and simple thoughts:
Avoid the appearance of evil.
If something might have the appearance of a lack of integrity, I need to cover myself with accountability. To proactively inform a colleague or authority of my actions, along with an explanation, will guard my integrity when something could be misunderstood.
Realize my personal life and my professional life are linked and intertwined.
The bible requires a spiritual leader to lead their own households well with the argument that if we cannot lead with integrity in our own homes, what makes us think we can effectively lead God’s business? I may not like it, but how I live my personal life does affect my leadership integrity.
Accept that I am an example.
The way I manage my finances, and the way I treat my wife and children, set an example. Sometimes I don’t want to be an example, but I am. By allowing myself to lead an organization important to the life of a community, the nation, and the world, I do set myself up as an example for how life should be lived.
Do not try to create an illusion of perfection.
Integrity means “whole,” it does not mean “perfect.” Sometimes the best example I can set is demonstrating integrity in my imperfection. How do I deal with my mistakes? How do I fix my failures? How do I protect myself from my own propensities toward sin? How do I guard my eyes and my heart?
Assure that private actions will withstand public scrutiny, if necessary.
I must assure that what I do in private, and the things I want to keep private, are moral, upright, integral, and will withstand any scrutiny brought to bear.
I have a private life that I want to keep private, but my privacy is never a license for immorality. I must exercise integrity when people are watching, and when they are not watching. On sabbatical, and any other times of private disconnection, I am accountable to God for what I do and who I am. Integrity is not only something I do, it is something I am, and who I am qualifies me to lead.
(I am on sabbatical this summer and I am blogging some of my thoughts as I listen to the heart of the Father. I’ll not be moderating comments while on sabbatical.)