As a 1983 Penn State University alumni, I have always enjoyed meeting other graduates and comparing our “Penn State Proud” memories and notes. Though I remain proud of the University in general, the administrative and athletic leadership is currently experiencing a crisis of integrity related to a sexual abuse scandal. The Penn State scandal draws my attention to the issue of character. The lack of godly character in leaders hinders and in some cases neutralizes their leadership.
But character flaws are not limited to leaders from the Western world. Following the 2008 Kenyan violence due to electoral fraud, Ibrahim Omondi wrote Changing the Political Landscape of a Nation to call his fellow countrymen to a higher standard of character and integrity in leadership. Additionally, in discussing the billions of aid to Africa with seemingly no permanent results in offsetting starvation and economic development, Dambisa Moyo in her book Dead Aid, identifies corruption of government leaders as core to the problems facing the continent. The lack of integrity in leaders breeds mistrust which hampers their ability to lead effectively. If a leader cannot be trusted their leadership is compromised.
What is character? Bill Hybels uses the title of his book on this subject, Who You Are When No One is Looking, to define godly character. Galatians 5 lists the fruit of the spirit and then concludes, “Against such things there is no law”. That means there is no argument against good character.
However, to only identifying the lack of character in leaders does nothing to solve the problem. Action must be taken to bring about change. As a starting point I suggest the daily reading of one chapter of the book of Proverbs. I have found this transformational. Profound gems of wisdom such as “…better to have self-control than to conquer a city”, (Pr. 16:32) help us to identify character flaws and implement practical changes so character flaws will not limit us.