Leading With Integrity


By Clarence Bradbury

And David shepherded them with integrity of heart; with skillful hands he led them – Psalm 78:72

The first step toward leadership integrity is to admit I don’t have it.  Only one human being lived with complete integrity.  The rest of us are seekers at best – fakers at worst.  Serious seekers like King David stand as hopeful signposts toward a reflected integrity we may all realize.  God Himself shines through the lives of leaders who seek first the Kingdom and character of God, as revealed in Jesus.

What does Integrity mean?   It originates in the Latin integritas (whole, intact); thus the word integer which is a whole number, without fractions or ambiguity.  Integrity is a state of unimpaired wholeness, connectedness, soundness and consistency.  People of integrity are principled, truthful, undivided, consistent, scrupulous and authentic.  They take seriously the cries from those they lead – DWYSYWD, or Do What You Say You Will Do.  Let’s explore this further, along with a few historical models.

Leaders are imperfect, broken people.  That’s why our best examples of integrity have a habit of declaring their perpetual need of this exceptional quality.  The moment we announce our integrity is the very time we may be demonstrating our lack of it.  Think of the two men praying in the temple – the Pharisee and the publican (Luke 18).  The one who thought himself better than others was declared a fraud, while the repentant one was exonerated.   As imperfect leaders, we don’t need to pretend we are flawless, well-practiced, or otherwise superior specimens of leadership.  Our followers will rejoice greatly when our pronouncements match our demonstrated humanity.  Whenever integrity in fact shows through our brokenness, people will, hopefully, see the Source of goodness more than the human carrier. John B. Dykes’ hymn reminds us of this – every virtue we possess, and every victory won, and every thought of holiness are His alone.

Integrity is an inside job.  It is not a leadership trait that we develop like being generous or practicing active listening.  Integrity emerges out of a seeking heart that generates intentional routines of spiritual formation.  Our guarded time of intimacy with our Creator produces soundness of spirit.  E. Stanley Jones, the great Methodist missionary statesman said, When we think of the ideal, we do not add virtue to virtue, but think of Jesus Christ, so that the standard of human life is no longer a code, but a character.

Trust is the currency of integrity.  Leadership is always a matter of daily dealing in actions and decisions; all of which, taken together, accrue or erode trust. Trust is developed by behaving in a consistent manner over time, meeting agreed commitments and following through on our word, or promises.  It’s easy to fall into the trap of being long on promises but short on delivery.  Luke 16:10 tells us that trust grows from smaller to larger – “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much.” (NIV)

The lives of trustworthy people ring true.  They are known to be genuine, authentic and true-faced.  Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote, No man, for any considerable period, can wear one face to himself, and another to the multitude, without finally getting bewildered as to which may be the true.  (The Scarlet Letter)

For a closer look at personal integrity, see Fred Smith’s Conducting a Spiritual Audit Twelve questions to keep your personal accounts in order


I also recommend Rick Warren’s pointed article – How to maintain Moral Integrity in the Ministry:


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