Character Integrity Reputation
by Ayodeji Jeremiah
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Character is what gives you the moral right to lead others. Integrity makes you better than a common scoundrel. Reputation stands you out from the herd.
You may be better at doing something than others. You may be older than the other members of your team. You may have more experience than those you are leading. You may be so good at what you do. But without character, without integrity, without a reputation you are just a sitting duck leader. Character is what makes you who you are. It is what gives you your personality. It is what makes you different from others. If you have a pair of identical twins (with same genetic composition) brought up in the same way (almost same psychological makeup) and in the same environment (same environmental feedbacks), they are certain to have some dissimilar character traits that makes them different.
Character traits are not something you buy from the grocery store. They are developed over the entire period of a person’s life and unlearning the wrong ones can be quite a difficult if not an almost impossible process. The person who has the wrong character trait barely acknowledges that he does unless and until it has caused some serious problems. Of course there are also some good character traits that can be quite a nuisance (such as being so well organised that you want things you kept in a particular place to be exactly as you left it. That can be easy when single but as a married person might cause more problems than you can ever imagine.) Anger is a particularly bad character trait but you often hear people with this problem say but that is the way I am. Anger caused Moses entrance to the Promised Land.
Character traits (negative ones that is) are not something you just gloss over. They should be dealt with in a determined manner. They should not be confused with physical weaknesses. You cannot be an angry man and go around annoying and aggravating people and turn around later when you are calm and say may God help me with this problem. You cannot be arrogant and not be able to say ‘thank you’, ‘please’ or ‘sorry’ and then say my wife or my driver or my children or my neighbour will understand. Selwyn Hughes was writing once that childhood is that period of life when parents build the rooms of the temple in which later God will dwell when the child is an adult. What he was simply saying was that we parents have the most say on how our children will turn out. Allowances are made of course for peer pressure, environmental effects and social hazards. But the buck stops at our table. A son who has seen his father abuse his mother physically, sexually and or emotionally will most likely (if care is not taken) turn out to abuse women when he grows up. It is because we want to make good adults out of our children that we send them to school and invest time with them to inculcate the right habits in them and hope and pray that God helps us with the rest.
A certain former late head of state of in Nigeria stole the country blind into billions of dollars (he was ranked the fourth most corrupt leader in recent history by Transparency International) and you still have people defending him and wondering what he did wrong. Like I have always asked in some past articles, what is one man, his wife and eleven children going to do with over $2 - 4 billion? Our late former head of state was not satisfied with all that he got while he was chief of army staff, minister of defence and de facto number 2 in preceding governments. Greed was what denied Judas his rightful place with the other apostles after Jesus’ resurrection and also his place in the kingdom. When a former minister of finance (a renowned chartered accountant) got himself embroiled in the $5 million ‘gift’ debacle, he lost most of the integrity he had acquired and built up over several years. You cannot dine with the devil and not get stained and choked. When Richard Nixon (former American president) passed on ten years ago he got a rousing burial. That was notwithstanding the Watergate scandal. At the height of the Watergate crisis, he did what most leaders with integrity and character will do, he took responsibility and he resigned. That makes him honourable at the least. A former minister of sports in this country was embroiled in the loss of a stadium electronic score board but what happened, he went on to become a senator of the federal republic.
If you do not have character, integrity and reputation and you are my leader then I can question your authority. I can only go as far as possible with you but not any further. Without those three qualities, your leadership is questionable. Why is it so easy for some people to lie so easily? Why is it so easy for some people not to keep to their words? Why is it that some people so easily play pawns with the life of those they are supposed to be leading? How can a person say one thing and mean entirely another thing? When you hear some people talking about their bosses and their behavioural attitudes then you begin to wonder. When you hear some children talk about their parents then you begin to wonder. When you hear some wives talk about their husbands then you begin to wonder. We are not angels, agreed and no one is perfect. We all have our character defaults. But it takes a conscious effort to be a better person and a good human being. How is it possible that it is only you that everyone does not like? How is it possible that you are always the person everyone is always complaining about? Of course everyone cannot like you and someone or the other will always have one complaint or the other but then several people all the time and almost on the same issue and saying the same thing.
Your character is the sum total of those mental and moral qualities and features that make you a complete human being different from others and where the balance of the scale is more in the negative than in the positive then some work needs to be done. Only those who truly like you (and not necessarily those close to you) will tell you about those negative traits. There is nothing wrong in being a good and honest person with a good heart and the right attitude. Some people think that because the world is a harsh place filled with all manners of people then you must be one tough cookie to get to the top and achieve your purpose. The world is bad enough as it is with enough mendacious, disreputable and untrustworthy people and you will do yourself a whole lot of good by not adding yourself to the number. All it takes is little bit of effort on an everyday basis and believing in a Creator higher than you does help. I close with these memorable words from Nelson Bowles, “The difference that you make in the world is determined by the moment to moment decisions that you take.”
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