April 30, 2014| 0

The Life Force of Leadership (Titus 2:7-8)

7 Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, 8 and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us.

Ask a parent what they most wish for their child. Is it wealth? Popularity? Goodness? The answer is easy: To be good, of course! To have integrity. To be truthful, loving, and faithful. These are the highest aspirations we can hold for our child, for ourselves, or for anyone we care about.

Paul shares that aspiration in his short letter to Titus, the young man he left in Crete to lead the church (v. 1:5). Paul writes to encourage and exhort Titus to lead with authority and get results in the face of rough politics and quarreling among the people.

In effect, Paul is empowering Titus to be an effective leader. His advice is short, sweet, and to the point. The essence of Paul’s message? Show integrity. Be a model of good works. Speak with dignity and confidence. That’s it. Integrity is the key to leadership. This biblical lesson has been taught (and its importance proven) over and over throughout history. Integrity may not always be enough to bring victory against trenchant opposition; but a lack of it certainly brings failure. It’s just a matter of time.

As Warren Bennis says, “Managers do things right. Leaders do the right thing.”[1] Management often suffices; but when circumstances get tough, leadership is essential. Leadership requires moral integrity, and is exercised when character strength prevails over circumstances.

Because leadership is defined in contexts of dissent and disagreement, a leader’s integrity is always being tested. Leaders who are swayed by ill winds or who succumb to temptation in order to gain popularity, success, or power, will eventually be defeated by more powerful and sinister forces. Jesus taught this lesson during his testing in the wilderness [Luke 4:1-13].

It takes faith and confidence in God to be this kind of leader—to stay true to God’s purposes, to rely on his grace, and to trust him with the outcomes of our actions. As Paul advises Titus, God is at work, and our job is to model good works with integrity, dignity, and sound speech.

A leader’s character is rooted in and nourished by a faith community. Like a growing plant, integrity will wither and die without the nourishment of life-giving faith. Modern culture saps the strength of leaders when it tries to sever the roots of faith, and denies the spiritual foundation of integrity. As C. S. Lewis says, we cannot raise up “men without chests and expect of them virtue.”[2]

Moral integrity is the life force of leadership. Paul shares this empowering lesson with his apprentice Titus, and with us.

[1] Bennis, W. (1989). On Becoming a Leader. New York: Basic Books, p. 42.
[2] Lewis, C. S. (2001). The Abolition of Man. New York: HarperOne, p. 26.

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© Bruce D. Baker, 2014

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