Leadership and character, surely in part because of someone like Bill Clinton (according to D. Willard, G. Black, Jr., Divine Conspiracy Continued, 62-63), have been divorced in the consciousness of many in the Western world. How you do your job and what you are like in private, so it assumed, are two different worlds. Willard and Black say a big No to this division.
I go toward the end of their chapter first with a profoundly important statement: What gets measured gets accomplished (70). Are we measuring character or “success” or “numbers” or “growth” or what?
What happens to measurements and accomplishments if the first thing we examine is character?
In my life some of the most important influences to me were people of character: my seminary professor and then colleague, Murray Harris, my favorite evangelical leader, John R.W. Stott, and then only later, Dallas Willard. The first only NT specialists know; the second most know but he was vilified by some evangelical powerhouses who had more platform but rarely his character, and we all know the character of Dallas. Character matters.
They focus on character as reflecting the Golden Rule, to which I respond in biased ways that even more so to the Jesus Creed, which is more specific than the Golden Rule and the latter reflects the Jesus Creed. But then I’m biased.
Character matters for leaders, and here is a profound statement of theirs about character and it led them to reflect — presciently I would say — on what happens when leaders fail. First, character.
Leaders can serve the public good well, only if those individuals routinely act in ways that supremely promote the specific public good for which their particular leadership exists.
Further, leaders make a positive impact, only if they are prepared to sacrifice their own personal gain, monetary or otherwise, for that good.
Last, leaders serve the common good only if they are appropriately vigilant in ensuring that members of their own peer group overwhelmingly conform to this moral ideal even when self-sacrifice is required (60-61).
They proceed then, second, to ask about failure:
When leaders or people with great responsibilities in our societies fail, either morally or ethically, how should we respond?…
There is now an industry of specialists in “crisis management who swoop into these circumstances to do “damage control” or manage the “fallout.”… [and] clients are counseled to confess, ask for forgiveness in some nationally televised or published interview, then move on… (61).
Often it seems a public confession is merely an attempt to take the “air” out of the media uproar …
The question that rarely seems to be asked in these situations is: How, and under what conditions, can such a person be trusted again?