August Reflection by Richard Parrish When Leaders Fall
“Righteousness guards him whose way is blameless, but sin overthrows the wicked.” - Proverbs 13:6 (ESV)
“Whoever walks in integrity will be delivered, but he who is crooked in his ways will suddenly fall.” - Proverbs 28:18 (ESV)
“Better is a poor person who walks in his integrity than one who is crooked in speech and is a fool.” - Proverbs 19:1 (ESV)
“Wow! I can’t wait until I can have an office like yours.”
His comment was more than complimentary. There was something with that off-handed remark that revealed a more profound concern, something deeper.
He was a new employee, recently hired. After several interviews with various team members, we believed he would be a good addition.
He was ambitious, creative, and — although young — had already contributed to some pretty impressive projects. Even his previous employers’ spoke highly of his abilities and potential. However:
Outward appearance does not reveal what’s under the surface.
“What is there about this office that inspires you,” I asked.
“Well, it’s obvious that a corner office like this speaks to your leadership. It appears you have a lot of influence. I want to work hard so, one day, I will receive the benefits of leadership.”
I knew then why I felt concerned. One off-the-cuff comment revealed something beneath the surface of this young leader’s life.
Healthy leadership courageously -- and continually -- explores what’s under the surface. We discover our insecurities and become aware of anger issues. We often recognize that there is an overabundance of pride and a deficiency of much-needed humility. Our tendency to micromanage is slowly unmasked, allowing us to see why we’re fearful of trusting.
Exploring what’s beneath the surface is painful. But what we project on the surface is not always an honest expression of who we are.
When a respected leader falls, it always comes as a shock. We expect proper behavior from our leaders — and rightfully so. Any moral lapse (a mistake or error in judgment that creates harm) erodes trust and reveals hidden characteristics that were previously unnoticed.
When a leader falls, it’s easy to point fingers, shame, and blame. And, it’s natural that we allow someone else’s character flaws to distract us from exploring what’s under the surface of our life.
I’m not responsible for your integrity. I have more than enough opportunities to guard my own. Proverbs 13:6 reminds us:
“Righteousness guards him whose way is blameless, but sin overthrows the wicked.”
A “righteous” person lives and acts by following God’s commands.
There’s an overabundance of resources that encourages leaders to focus on external success. The wisdom of Proverbs, however, is less concerned with outward accomplishments. We see that righteous behavior is what makes leaders admirable.
Society places value on external success (which can be measured by fortune, fame, and corner offices). But God values what contributes to a life guided — and guarded — by integrity.
It’s tempting to be attracted by those who have climbed the corporate ladder. We’re fascinated with those who have a “rags-to-riches” story. We can even be impressed by those who can make crooked words look straight with their communication skills.
But what’s attractive to us on the surface fails to expose what lies beneath the surface. What’s often glamorous to us fails to impress God. In God’s evaluation:
Integrity is always more attractive than success.
Integrity is formed inwardly and revealed outwardly. We’ve all heard the expression: “You can’t judge a book by its cover.” We know what this means. It’s a symbolic statement that reminds us: It’s what’s inside that matters.
I’m always saddened when a leader falls. But I’m thankful that the shock of a fallen leader also reminds — and invites — me to explore what’s under the surface of my leadership.
“Better is a poor person who walks in his integrity than one who is crooked in speech and is a fool” (Proverbs 19:1).
Here are some questions worth considering:
When’s the last time you’ve looked beneath the surface of your leadership?
What keeps you from regularly exploring the underbelly of your leadership? Why?
Are there integrity areas of your leadership you are tempted to compromise? Can you name them?
Do you see yourself differently than others see you?
Would you want them to see you as you see yourself? Why? Why not?
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