Some people don’t think it is very important. Since leadership requires flexibility, some think that a person with high ideals and deep moral convictions will be less pragmatic or realistic than a person with fewer scruples.
In the short term it’s undeniable that unscrupulous people sometimes have an advantage. People often find personal accountability and a long-range vision less appealing than immediate advantages and an opportunity to fall in line behind a charismatic leader.1
The psalmist eloquently described the temporary success of the wicked ( Psalm 37:35; 73:3 ). Jesus also recognized the short-term advantages of the unprincipled ( Luke 16:8 ). But although unprincipled people in power may gain quick success, they and their followers always reap the consequences of their immorality and opportunism. The Old Testament writers vividly described the results of evil leadership ( Psalm 7:11-16; 9:15; 37:7-15 ; Proverbs 28:10; 29:6 ; Ecclesiastes 10:5-9 ), as did Jesus ( Matthew 6:23; 15:14; 23:15 ; Luke 6:39-40; 11:34 ).
In the long term, however, a person of integrity has the advantage. Good character may limit a person’s options at times, but wisdom flows from good character (In the long term, however, a person of integrity has the advantage. Good character may limit a person’s options at times, but wisdom flows from good character ( Job 28:28 ; Psalm 1:1-4; 111:10 ; Proverbs 3:3-4 ). Furthermore, a good person doesn’t have to be naive. Jesus told His disciples to be “as wise as serpents but gentle as doves.” Because they live as sheep in the midst of wolves ( Matthew 10:16 ), Christians need to be able to understand the mind of a predator (“wise as a serpent”), while remaining gentle and uncorrupted within (“harmless as a dove”). A truly effective leader — and especially a Christian leader — won’t be characterized by inflexibility but by his steady, underlying motivation ( Matthew 20:25-28; 23:8-12 ). Dedication to principle and genuine concern for others may on occasion be a short-term disadvantage, but in the long run it will attract loyal followers, create lasting success, and earn the blessing of God (Psalm 37:34 ; Isaiah 40:31 ; Galatians 6:9).
- This is why the people of Israel insisted on having a king, against the counsel of the prophet Samuel ( 1 Samuel 8:7-8,19-20 ). Back To Article