We started the series on the transformational leader with the story of the Prime Minister Joseph; the first tributary of leadership we spoke about was the nature of the transformational leader. I had a number of comments on the article, and there was a reader that assumed the five or six qualities I had mentioned there were all tributaries of leadership. All we mentioned were different aspects of the nature of the transformational leader. Now we will move ahead in our study of the transformational leader.
THE CHARACTER OF THE LEADER
The next tributary I would like us to see is the character of the transformational leader. When we look at the character of Joseph, the first thing that strikes us is the man’s integrity. In my personal assessment of the lives of hundreds of leaders it has become my modest opinion that one of the major components of transformational leadership is the leader’s integrity. John Eddison gave a wonderful explanation of the word integrity; he said
Integrity is an interesting word. It means ‘wholeness’ or ‘untouchedness’, and an ‘integer’ is a ‘whole or intact or undivided number’
What this simply means is that a person is a person of integrity when he is “whole” with his word. You can’t be a fraction and be a man of integrity; you can’t be a decimal and be a man of integrity, you can only be said to have integrity when what you deliver is consistent with what you say.
This is a key element of the transformational leader.
We know that mathematics is a science of integrity, for example 2 plus 2 will always be 4, just like 5 minus 3 will always be 2. The results will always be consistent; they will never change. This is the point I want us to see, there will always be an element of consistency and predictability with the man who has integrity.
The transformational leader is almost always consistent; his actions and reactions can be predicted many times because he lives by principles and not by people’s opinions or some other primordial considerations. You can’t transform anything when the standards you live by are not absolute, you can’t do that when you are not principle based. You can’t be a transformational leader if values mean nothing to you.
The transformational leader is not the one who keeps changing the values and standards he lives by. I say this bearing in mind that one of the philosophies (if I may call it that) that has gained ground in our world is “situational ethics”; anyone that lives by this perception does not have fixed standards. His situation determines his ethics, so what is black today might become white under different conditions tomorrow. The transformational leader does not reason like that.
I can imagine that someone might ask “Is being consistent a good thing, isn’t it possible that people can take advantage of you if you are predictable?” Well it is possible; but I am quite sure that your consistency will mostly work to your advantage rather than otherwise. This might not sound reasonable to the Machiavellian but I’ll explain.
IS INTEGRITY RELEVANT IN LEADERSHIP?
Who was Adolf Hitler’s deputy? His name was Rudolf Hess; he was the deputy fuehrer of the Third Reich. Now the records say Hermann Goring was Hitler’s immediate deputy but Hess was the one Hitler trusted, and Goring was second in command while Hess was the one Hitler willed his power to (in the event of his death). Now this is very interesting, especially when we realize that there were more capable individuals than Hess. There was Heinrich Himmler, who was the Head of the Gestapo, a very fearful individual who was as ruthlessly efficient as he was efficiently ruthless; there was his direct assistant, Reinhard Heydrich, who was so evil that even Himmler was afraid of him; Joseph Goebbels, the Nazi propaganda chief, was another one of Hitler’s capable associates.
All these men were more capable, brilliant and ambitious than Hess, but the only person that was, in principle, his superior (other than Hitler) was Goring. Goring was very influential in post-Nazi Germany, he had a lot of contacts in Berlin’s high society and this was what Hitler was determined to exploit when he named him as one of the representatives of the Nazi party in the elections into the Reichstag. However, Hess was unofficially declared as the favorite to succeed Hitler. The question is “why him?”
THE PRINCIPLED NAZI?
It is widely assumed that what endeared Hess to Hitler was not his ability, talent or brilliance, rather it was his integrity. Hess was said to be a man of principles that had a human face, even in the midst of the monsters that made up the Nazi party. In fact, it was these principles that drove him to Scotland, without Hitler’s knowledge to negotiate a peace treaty with Britain during the World War. Hitler trusted this man and made him his right hand man.
A RARE BREED
General Robert Edward Lee, the exceptional commander of the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia during the American Civil war, was known as a man of integrity. It is widely reported that he was asked to be the President, in name only, of an insurance company where he could earn as much as $10,000 regularly; he declined and said he would never take wages for a job he had not done. It was this same General Lee who President Abraham Lincoln, having heard about his integrity, offered the Command of the entire Union Army in 1861. Lee declined because he felt he had to stand with his home state of Virginia which was seceding from the Union despite his entreaties to them to desist from doing so.
What I want you to see here is that integrity is a major factor in the rise of the transformational leader. Very few people are born in positions of power, the majority of us have to work our way up there and integrity will play a massive role in it. For example, in the Bible, one of the reasons for which Daniel was promoted, like Joseph, was for his integrity (see Daniel 6:1-4), King Darius needed a man of integrity, just like Belshazzar before him, and Nebuchadnezzar before him.
Joseph’s first boss, Potiphar, discovered that he was a person of integrity and so he left everything he had in Joseph’s care (see Genesis 39:6), he evidently saw the transformational leader in the man.
Afterwards, the governor of the prison made the same discovery, and did the same thing (see Genesis 39:22-23). In like manner Pharaoh, who according to tradition was not the most decent man, picked Joseph as his prime minister on the very first day he saw him face to face (see Genesis 41:40).
There is one thing I am sure about, no thief wants another thief to steal from him; everybody, good or bad, wants someone they can trust. Integrity breeds trust, and for the transformational leader to have anyone to transform he must first be trusted. This trust will make those that are his superiors favorably disposed towards him.
Joseph was a model of the transformational leader. John Eddison said “And surely this is what people always want of their leaders, whether political, military or ecclesiastical. They are suspicious of the very clever, they mistrust the very charming and they dislike the ambitious; but if they know a man is transparently honest in his personal and official life, they are more than content”. This can also be applied to what a person wants from his subordinates. Hitler mistrusted most of his associates but trusted Hess because of his integrity. Hess might not have been a transformational leader but the point I want you to see is that integrity can bring you to a place of prominence, and this place of prominence is where the transformational leader should get to if his influence will increase.
A LEADER IS FAITHFUL AND DEPENDABLE
There was also another part of Joseph’s character that is worth mentioning. This is the faithfulness that the man exhibited. There was nothing that was placed in his charge that failed, and this is worthy of mention. The transformational leader is a faithful person; we find this trait of the transformational leader in Joseph when he was asked by his father to check on his siblings (see Genesis 37: 12-17), despite the fact that he didn’t enjoy the company of his brothers, and he didn’t immediately see them where he had expected them to be, he went on to search for them regardless of the difficulties involved in the search.
He did this because he had to “bring back word” to his father.
He delivered all that Potiphar, the prison governor, and Pharaoh asked of him and he was not found wanting. This reminds me a lot of the great King of Israel, David; David was sent to take care of his father’s sheep and when a lion and a bear came to eat them he put his life on the line to protect them (see 1 Samuel 17:34-35). David’s father also sent him to his siblings, but in this case it was to send them supplies and provisions; David made sure the sheep he was taking care of were adequately catered for (see 1 Samuel 17:17-20), then he went down to the camp where his soldier brothers were and made sure he left the supplies with the supply keeper before he went anywhere else.
The transformational leader does not allow what is committed into his hands fail. He is both dependable and trustworthy.
As we continue our journey into transformational leadership I’ll be looking forward to hearing from you, and reading your comments.