The One Thing You Can’t Lead Without

I had one of those mornings today. My calendar was planned out and I was following it closely.

But fifteen minutes into a staff meeting I got a call from the person I was to have lunch with. The lunch started sooner than I understood and I had to leave the staff meeting early. And I’m the one who had called the meeting.

Maybe you’re thinking, “What’s the big deal? Things happen.” And that thinking may be one of your problems as a leader.  Here’s why.

Doing what you say you will do when you say you’ll do it and in the way you said you were going to do it has to do with integrity. Integrity is who you are. I remember working out in a weight room a number of years ago. On the wall were motivational posters. The one that stuck with me was the one that read: “You are who you are when no one’s looking.” I might co-opt that phrase and say instead, “You are who you are by how you honor your word.”

A training process I am involved in—along with others from my church—called Compass Initiative (part of the Faithwalking Community) is helping me understand that there is a difference between keeping your word and honoring your word. You won’t always keep your word. You will give your word to something and then forget or, yes, at times “things happen” and you just can’t follow through. But you can honor your word.

So what do you do when you break your word but want to honor your word? Here are five steps we are learning that allow us to live with integrity.

  • Go to those who were impacted by the broken promise.
  • Acknowledge the broken promise.
  • Ask how that broken promise has impacted that person. Listen to what they have to say. Really listen.
  • Do what you need to do to make things right. After you feel the “sting” from how your broken promise has impacted them you can offer a sincere apology.
  • Re-promise with them and work to keep that promise.

If you say you’ll be on time, be on time. If you say you’ll show up for your kid’s game, be there. If you promise your spouse a weekend away, do it. If you say you’ll get a project done by a specific date, get it done.

And when you don’t, follow these five steps until you master them. If you think you live in integrity all the time start paying attention to your life. You’ll probably discover you don’t. But you can.

You’re probably wondering what I did with the staff meeting. I apologized and asked the other staff how it made them feel. They were gracious. (Maybe relieved that they could get on to something else!) We have staff meetings every week. But in other areas the consequence of broken integrity can be costly.

Jesus said, “Let your ‘yes’ be ‘yes’ and your ‘no’ be ‘no.’ Learn to do that. You have to if you want to lead well.

Question: Is there any place in your life today where you have broken your word? If so, follow these steps and honor your word today.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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