20 October 2013

Wanted! Leaders of Character!

by Dr Mark Keown

What a week in the news for NZ's leaders. First, there is the stunning revelation of Len Brown’s infidelity just after he has been re-elected mayor of Auckland. What a story! And it sounds like there is more to come – groan!

Then, we have the news that John Banks has stood down from his ministry role and is defending himself over mayoral donations. Earlier in the week we heard of the alleged misappropriation of money by members of the Kohanga Reo National Trust to the tune of some $120,000. What a week! It is a great topic for work place conversation. It is a feeding frenzy for the media and political opponents who will no doubt cash in big time in the weeks to come.

It is not for me to comment on the details of these situations; the people involved will have to stand the test of trial legally, in the media, by the public, and worst of all, in their families. The way it is going, none of these situations will be pretty and I can’t help thinking that we Christians should be praying for them despite their alleged misdemeanours and flaws.

What stands out to me is a feeling of sadness and disillusionment concerning leaders in our nation. There is a glaring deficit of character in leadership at present. We have many leaders of skill and character, but many who fall well woefully short in terms of character. What amazes me is that for many it doesn’t seem to matter. As long as they do a good job, who cares what they do in their private life? That to me is a strange duality – are we split people?

Is what really matters in leadership one’s work-ethic, charisma, vision (for a city or whatever), and giftedness? Or is what matters who we are; our 24/7 integrity, our consistency, our humility, our fidelity, our honesty, etc; i.e. our character? It seems to me that the call to leadership in any sphere carries at its heart the call to be people of character.

None of us is perfect, we all stumble and fall. Christians are no different, as the regular media stories of people of the cloth falling demonstrate. However, that does not diminish the call of leadership to being people who seek to live across every facet of their lives leading not only with what we do in our given profession, but who we are. Leadership involves integrity on our part, so that those we lead can trust us. It involves us not allowing ourselves to be seduced in any situation, for the consequences are always bad.

One last thought. Such indiscretions reveal deeper issues in the lives of these people. There are likely emotional issues that lead them to make poor decisions to fill their need. The relentless pressure of leadership is deeply challenging especially where our emotional intelligence is concerned. All leaders must find space to be restored, remain whole, have their emotional needs met. These are enormous challenges for our nation which is desperately in need of great leaders who not only embody the brilliance required, but emotional health. The church is no different. May God raise them up.

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