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5 (New) Character Rules Every Leader Should Follow

5 (New) Character Rules Every Leader Should Follow

Character has always been important, but it seems like it’s never been as important as it is now.

There have been far too many stories of church leaders, business leaders, politicians, athletes and other public figures whose private walk has not measured up to their public talk and whose integrity has been far less than expected or needed.

Especially if you’re a Christian leader, there should never be a gap between your private walk and public talk.

The people who know you the best should admire you the most, not be covering up for you or dismayed at what they know.

The problem, of course, is that’s hard for us sinners. I’m not perfect. You’re not perfect. I’ve made plenty of mistakes.

But the longer I live, the more I’m realizing character is everything.

Competency may get you in the room. But character keeps you in the room. Above all, character endures. It’s what your family and friends remember about you (for better or for worse), and ultimately it gives you the moral authority to lead. Especially today, character matters most.

So how do you guard your character…in a day-in-day-out manner?

Here are five character rules every leader might want to follow:


What if you lived in a way that you assumed whatever you did in private will be made public?

I’m not just talking about having an affair or other scandals that make headlines. I mean definitely don’t do that.

I’m talking about less headline-worthy but still damaging things. Like treating your spouse or kids harshly. Or turning to porn or drinking to cope with your stress. Or anything else you’d rather not anyone know about.

What if you lived in a way that just assumed it’s only a matter of time until everyone knew about it?

That would change how you live, wouldn’t it?

When I first got into ministry I was a little fearful of the level of accountability that comes with the role.

Now, I’m grateful for it. Why?

Because honestly, it’s made me a better person. Not a perfect person by any stretch (ask my team; ask my family). But I’m a better person because of the higher level of accountability that comes with pastoring.

Knowing I’m accountable and living as though whatever I’m doing might see public daylight is a good thing.

So ask yourself: If what you’re about to do was made public, would you still do it?

There are so many leaders who wish they had asked that question and changed course. So ask it. Daily.

It’s an incredible check on your spirit and, ultimately, on your actions. Plus, the people around you will be so grateful.


This one’s even a little more nuanced.

As a leader, there’s a need to blow off steam…I get that. You face a lot of pressure every day and it’s not always easy to keep it together. Plus, it’s important to give vent to your feelings.

But are you doing it in a healthy way?

Ask yourself: How comfortable would you be if someone had the passcode to your phone and started reading, or was a fly on the wall in your closed-door meetings?

Theologically, this principle shouldn’t be a stretch for any Christian leader. Jesus promised that whatever we said in private would be shouted from the rooftops.

That’s true in a way we’ll only really see in eternity, but we may not have to wait that long. We live in an age where every email and text has the potential of being made public.

A few months ago, I had a situation I was nervous and a little upset about that I wanted advice on.

I emailed some friends about it, one of whom happened to have the same first name as the person I was concerned about. I accidentally emailed the person I was concerned about with the email about my concern. You know how that goes: Gmail auto-suggests names, and I picked the wrong “Alex.”

That could have been disastrous if I had been careless with my words or been acidic in my tone.

But I wasn’t. I had been trying to live by the principle that what you say in private will be made public.

The Alex I was concerned about actually let me know I had sent my email to the wrong “Alex,” and there was no harm done. Because (in that moment at least) my email was professional, balanced and more than fair.

Some of you have accidentally discovered that what you thought was a private DM posted instead as a status update. Same thing. (I’ve seen this happen many times on social.)

Just assume that what you say in private will be made public. At work, at home, in life.

You’ll be a better person. You’ll have richer and less conflicted relationships. And you’ll sleep better at night.

Assuming what you say in private will be made public changes what you say in private.

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Speaker and podcaster Carey Nieuwhof is a former lawyer and founding pastor of Connexus Church, one of the largest and most influential churches in Canada. With over 6 million downloads, The Carey Nieuwhof Leadership Podcast features today's top leaders and cultural influencers. His most recent book is “Didn’t See It Coming: Overcoming the 7 Greatest Challenges That No One Expects and Everyone Experiences.” Carey and his wife, Toni, reside near Barrie, Ontario and have two children.