The formation of a leader Part 1 L064

It has often been said that the formation of a leader’s character is more important than charisma. In other words it doesn’t matter how gifted someone is, if there are major character flaws, they will always come unstuck at some point, and often leave a trail of disappointed (at best) or devastated followers in their wake.

We all know of leaders who have disqualified themselves by their behaviour. Those who have been found to have their hands in the till (like Robert Maxwell), their hands down their pants (like Bill Clinton) or their hands on the glory (any limelight seeking celebrity wannabe will do). Money sex and power are often quoted as areas of particular weakness, but there are so many more subtle areas that trip up the unsuspecting leader. They are all things that represent unformed or immature character; they are crucial fault lines in the tectonic plates of leadership, issues that can create destruction of earthquake proportions when the leader is put under pressure.

Insecurity, pride, fear of man, need for approval, unteachability, insensitivity, lack of grace, laziness, gossip, critical attitudes, meanness, impatience, self pity, self righteousness, anger, prejudice, even workaholism are evidence of unformed character.

The problem with a leader with charisma is that they can get results, and when that happens the motivation to get into God’s school of character formation is nowhere to be found. They are so blinded by their initial success that they fail to see the investment that is needed for the long haul. They can often cruise for a long time on their innate abilities or learned skills before their lack of maturity catches up with them. When it finally does, it comes as quite a shock, usually after some major melt-down or failure that makes them realise the foundations of their whole leadership experience need a radical overhaul.

So how does character get formed?

Firstly it takes time. You can’t rush the formation of character, like a good wine, it takes time to form. Fruit that is forced to grow in artificial conditions has no flavour. Have you ever had those strawberries that taste of cardboard, not much pleasure in that is there? So it is with character. We all know when we have met someone who has experienced something of life, someone who has been through hard times, suffered, and overcome. Those things take time. No one is born mature. Even Jesus we are told ‘learned obedience through the things he suffered’. We don’t quite know what that means but there was evidently something being formed in him through times of difficulty and suffering.

Many of us were in such a rush to get into leadership. We were excited about the vision we had. We could see no obstacle to our meteoric rise to influence and responsibility. We just wanted to get on and ‘do the stuff’. It all sounds so easy when you read about other’s exploits; plan your leadership journey on a piece of paper; or lie awake dreaming about what you can achieve, or what you can do for God.

It took me a long time to figure out that God was more interested in doing something in me than doing anything through me. It took time to realise that I was not God’s answer to the global church’s shortcomings or failures. It took time for me to accept that God had a different agenda to mine. It took time for me to abandon my headstrong wilfulness, and to trust in God’s timing. It still does!

It takes time.

We will continue to explore the theme of character formation in subsequent blogs

This entry was posted by nic on Monday, May 14th, 2012 at 5:22 pm and is filed under Leadership. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.


  1. phil says:

    Who said “i have never met anyone under 30 who wasn’t an idiot”?

  2. nic harding says:

    It was Bill Wilson the last time he spoke at Frontline, He knew how to make friends with the young generation that day!

  3. youre really talented.

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