Character matters! The bedrock foundation of your leadership is character. I continue to appreciate the words of General Norman Schwarzkopf,

“Leadership is the potent combination of strategy and character. If you must be without one, be without strategy.”

His words remain as true today as when he first said them more than fifty years ago. His intent was not to minimize the importance of strategy but to emphasize the essential need for character.

Several years ago, I opened a fortune cookie, and the message inside read, “God has given you one face; you make for yourself another.” You and I cannot change the physical aspects related to how God has created us. However, we can work on the other, which involves our character.

What kind of character do you need to be effective? This is the sixty-four-million-dollar question. Think about the kind of character you want in a leader. If you develop those same qualities in your own life, there is a good chance others will follow because they are looking for the same. Countless books have been written about character, so I will not exhaust the subject. However, I will share a few important notes about character for you to consider.


How do you define integrity? I have asked this question several times and studied the subject at length. The most common response suggests that integrity is doing the right thing when no one else is watching, even when it costs you something or hurts. If you were to practice only this definition of integrity, everyone would notice the consistency that develops in your life. I remember a powerful thought shared by a friend, “Character is demonstrated in the difficult times, not in the easy. It’s easy to have character when things are going well. The challenge is to have character in crisis. Integrity is one of the few things you really own. No one can take it away from you, but you can most certainly give it away.” David reminds us in Psalm 15:2 that the type of character that can walk into God’s presence and stay is one that “walks with integrity.”


Defining credibility is a bit more challenging. It is closely associated with integrity and trust, with an exception. Technically, credibility refers to the quality of being trusted, believed in, convincing, or believable. The process of gaining credibility sheds light on its definition. You gain credibility through your decision-making process. When you make good decisions, you strengthen your credibility. Of course, the opposite is also true. Learning how to demonstrate wisdom when making decisions is foundational to your credibility.


Few qualities are more important in your leadership than being honest with others. This is foundational to other areas that make up your character. If you ever lie to people and they find out, you lose credibility, and they will not trust you or your leadership. The ability to be straightforward and honest with people builds stronger relationships. People will seek out your counsel if they know you will be honest with them. This part of character must be birthed from inside each of us. Again, David states that a man of God is one who “speaks truth in his heart.” I’ve always found it fascinating to look at this statement and consider where truth begins. The only way honesty becomes a part of our character is when truth comes from inside us.


This trait can be confusing and misunderstood. Humility can be summarized by saying you do not think less of yourself, but you think of yourself less and of others more. When you work for the good of others, helping them reach their potential, and always consider the needs of others before your own, you will be recognized as possessing humility. When the opposite occurs, followers tend to view you as prideful, arrogant, or full of yourself. Developing humility is a life-long journey, but one that reaps great rewards. James makes it clear that.

God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble”…James 4:6

Leading from a posture of humility is one of the most powerful lessons leaders can learn today.


You have no greater commodity in your character than trust. People will not follow someone they do not trust. Once trust is broken in the relationship, it is nearly impossible to get back. As the saying goes, “It is easier to maintain than regain.” Remember, there is one question every person asks of someone they follow: “Can I trust you?” Trust is usually built on the previous four traits I’ve discussed. If you want to be a great leader, then be trustworthy. The weight of responsibility found in being worthy of someone’s trust is incredible. When people know they can trust you, they will go to the ends of the earth for you.

There is more that could be said, but if you are a leader or aspire to learn more about leadership, a foundational and essential component is character. When you focus on your integrity, credibility, honesty, humility, and building trust, you will be a leader others will follow. God needs those who are willing to lead today. For too long, we have allowed the world to influence and lead people away from Him. Now is the time for us to rise up. I will close with the words of Mark Batterson in his book Chase the Lion:

“Quit living as if the purpose of life is to arrive safely at death. Run to the roar. Set God-sized goals. Pursue God-given passions. Go after a dream that is destined to fail without divine intervention. Stop pointing out problems. Become part of the solution. Stop repeating the past. Start creating the future. Face your fears. Fight for your dreams. Grab the opportunity by the mane, and don’t let go! Live like today is the first day and the last day of your life. Burn sinful bridges. Blaze new trails. Live for the applause of nail-scarred hands. Don’t let what’s wrong with you keep you from worshipping what’s right with God. Dare to fail. Dare to be different. Quit holding out. Quit holding back. Quit running away. Chase the lion.”

This is Character!

Bob Turner
+ posts

Bob Turner is the current Director of SALT (Sunset Academy for Leadership Training). He teaches courses and conducts workshops in Leadership Development, Emotional Intelligence, Creating Vision, Strategic Planning, Communication, Conflict Resolution, Character, and Managing Change. He also serves as an instructor in the Sunset International Bible Institute’s master’s and doctoral degree programs. He and his wife, Sheryl, have been married for 42 years with more than 30 years of ministry experience. They have three grown children and ten grandchildren.