1. Consistency, Foundation for Leadership
Luke 19:17-- “‘Well
done, my good servant!’ his master replied. 'Because you have been
trustworthy in a very small matter, take charge of ten cities.’”
“Credibility [trust] is mostly about consistency between words
and deeds.” --Kouzes and Posner, Credibility, p. 47
- Consistency: The jury is in and the verdict is unanimous:
consistency is the linchpin to all other aspects of trust-building.
In human relationship and in ministry leadership, others need to be able to
depend on you in the short and long run. Your behavior is steady and stable,
not erratic. Your expected presence is dependable, not temporary or sporadic.
Your performance is consistently good, not below par. Your mood is within
acceptable ranges, not temperamental. You are gracious and forgiving, not
argumentative or judgmental. You live by values and principles, not fleeting
fads and notions. You are consistent!
1a: Agreement or logical coherence among things or parts: a rambling
argument that lacked any consistency; 1b: Correspondence among related
aspects, compatibility: questioned the consistency of the administration's
actions with its stated policy; 2: Reliability or uniformity of successive
results or events: pitched with remarkable consistency throughout the
season; . . .
--The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language,
- Consistency Engenders Trust--Kouzes and Posner, Credibility,
p. 109: “Is my behavior predictable or erratic? If your behavior
is confusing, indecisive, or inconsistent, others cannot depend upon you to
behave in certain ways in similar situations. They cannot make reasonable
hypotheses about how you might react under new or different circumstances.
Some degree of predictability or consistency is required in order for people
to believe in you. Consistency means that the same personal values and organizational
aims will influence what you say and do, that your preoccupation with quality
or customer service (for example) will not give way to the shifting tides
of fashion or politics.”
- Steadiness and Fairness--John Gardner, On Leadership,
p. 33: “One of the most important prerequisites for trust in a leader
is steadiness. The need for reliability is not only ethically desirable; it
is generally a practical necessity. A leader who is unpredictable poses a
nerve-wracking problem for followers. They cannot rally around a leader if
they do not know where he or she stands. . . . For leaders seeking to win
trust, another requirement is fairness--fairness when the issues are being
openly adjudicated, and equally important, fairness in the backroom. Nothing
is more surely stabilizing than confidence that the leader is unshakably fair
in private as well as in public.”
- A Leader’s Consistent Position--Bennis and Goldman,
Learning to Lead, p 120: “We tend to trust leaders when we
know where they stand in relation to the organization and how they position
the organization relative to the environment. We understand how our leaders’
positions evolved and know that they are willing to reconsider them in the
face of new evidence.”
2. Let the Scripture Teach
- 1 Tim 6:11-12-- “But
you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness,
faith, love, endurance and gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith.
Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your
good confession in the presence of many witnesses.” (NIV)
Comments: Paul’s instruction to Timothy is clearly stated: “be
consistent!” as a “man of God.” His challenging
call to Timothy cascades down through the ages to those of us today who follow
in the ministry of Christ to live consistent lives:
- to flee external destructive influences, such as financial greed, broken
faith, and resulting grief (see I Tim. 6:6-10)
- to pursue righteousness (right standing with God) and godliness (God-likeness
- to be believing and loving in your values and actions
- to endure the hardships of life, to persevere in the changing circumstances
- to be gentle in spirit and actions; really care about others
- to fight, contend and struggle, for your spiritual life of faith
- to stay with your calling and confession; be faithful to your spiritual
Zondervan Commentary: Paul begins by saying, “But you”--the
“you” is emphatic (placed first) in the Greek. Then he addresses
Timothy as “man of God.” This is a common designation
for prophets in the OT (e.g., 1Sam 9:6). . . . “It connotes one
who is in God's service, represents God and speaks in his name, and admirably
fits one who is a pastor” (p. 139). That seems to be a reasonable
interpretation. “Pursue” (dioke) means “keep
on pursuing,” make these things your lifelong pursuit. Then Paul names
six Christian virtues. We have already noted that hypomone means
“endurance,” not “patience.” Praupathia
(only here in the NT) may equally well be translated “meekness”
(KJV) or “gentleness.” (See also Heb. 12:7; James 1:12.)
- James 1:12-- “Blessed
is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test,
he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love
Zondervan Commentary: James concludes his discussion of the testing
of faith with a promise of the reward to be given to the one who successfully
stands the test. This verse is seen to be related to the preceding verses,
rather than those that follow, by the repetition of terminology (“trials,”
v. 2; “testing,” “perseverance,” v. 3) and also
from the fact that testings are to be endured (“perseveres”),
whereas temptations are to be resisted (Ropes, p. 150). . . . James uses
the term to describe the enviable state of the man who does not give up
when confronted with trying circumstances but remains strong in faith and
devotion to God. The word dokimos, which indicates that the man
“has stood the test,” was used to describe the successful testing
of precious metals and coins. It referred to the process of testing and
also to the consequent approval of the tested object as genuine. Perseverance
under trial results in approval, and approval results in “he crown
[stephanon] of life.” For James, the word refers to the reward
to be given the believer who is victorious in his struggle against trials.
- James 1:2-8--Perseverance During Difficult Times: “Consider
it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because
you know that the testing of your faith, develops perseverance. Perseverance
must finish its work so that you may be nature and complete, not lacking anything….a
double-minded man, unstable in all he does.” (NIV)
Comment: During my own testing times, I have often come to this text and found
it both difficult and profitable. To be consistent in the times of testing
is to demonstrate qualities of trust: in God’s providential care, in
your own integrity, in others, and with confidence in positive outcomes in
your own life.
3. Consistency Building Trust: Practices and Behavior
Down through the years, and in several roles of ministry, I have discovered
many of the dimensions of consistency. Often I have actually put them into time-honored
practices and received satisfaction and benefits in my life and leadership.
I have enjoyed relationship of family and friends who have shown me by example
the value of reliability and steadfastness. Add that experience to the study
of this “trust trait” I would make the following suggestions: assess
your own level of consistency and plan what learning actions would benefit you.
- Demonstrate consistently your commitment to the congregation’s mission
by your deeds; do not let random efforts substitute for intentional performance
of kingdom goals.
- Persevere in the larger and longer tasks in your servant leadership; don’t
give up easily because of resistance, roadblocks, or “shifty feelings.”
- Stand by your beliefs and values; others may disagree with you or resist
you, but you maintain your own self-respect and perhaps theirs.
- Be an example of consistency: congruence between your “walk and your
talk” is one of the most explicit measurements of being trustworthy.
- Be dependable in your ministry responsibilities; let your team members
feel and say, “You’re steady as a rock; I can really count on
- Be predictable and reasonable in reactions and responses; irrational or
exaggerated behavior slows trust-building in any arena of relationships.
- Be decisive, not erratic or confusing; careful, informed, collaborative
decision-making often develops good decisions and healthy follow-through.
- Be caring in the flaws and falls of others; consistency demonstrates balance
between goal-oriented work and supportive behavior of the workers.
- Be redemptive in confrontation and criticism; when problems need to be
faced, focus on solving problems, not simply blaming persons.
- Do not neglect a person’s need because you do not like them, or because
“they are not really our kind.”
- Be a quiet, thoughtful presence in the midst of your people, as a servant
leader; a CEO seldom inspires trust in the midst of the congregation or its
- Take the lead in getting the work done; be a good example to members and
staff members; do not procrastinate in doing tasks that belong to you.
- Take time to balance life and leadership; demonstrate that you value personal
life and family, friends and fun, and the work God has given you to do.
- Exercise your spiritual gifts; discover, sharpen, and exercise your giftedness;
develop skills and practices that cover other areas of your ministry assignment.
- Nurture the spiritual gifts and commitment of others around you; balance
the team effort by calling out the resources and giftedness within the congregation
Your example as a consistent steadfast person is the critical element in
every arena of life. Schweitzer succinctly says it: “Example is
not the only thing influencing others. It is the only thing.” --Albert
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For full citation of referenced works, see Bibliography/Links at www.servantleaderstoday.com
Adapted by Lloyd Elder, Th.D., Founding Director, Moench Center for Church Leadership