Character Finishes What Competency Starts

People get hired and promoted on talent, potential, track record, and competency.  The culture and marketplace reward competence when they see it, and arguably they should.

But I don’t think competency alone will keep you there.

The roadside is littered with the bodies of people who were great at what they did but neglected who they were.  Pro sports, the church, Hollywood and Wall Street have witnessed so many incredibly gifted people who fell because of drugs, affairs, theft, embezzlement, inability to get along with co-workers or team mates or personal demons they just couldn’t beat.  From Lindsay Lohan to Ted Haggard to Terrell Owens to Bernie Madoff, it’s pretty clear competence alone isn’t enough.

Here’s what I increasingly believe.  Competency starts something that only character can finish.

And here’s the tension:  I sometimes think the key to my future development is competency.  I just want to get better at what I do.  I want to lead better, preach better, communicate more effectively, motivate teams at a higher level.  And all of that’s good.

But one slip up in character could undermine it all.  One bad move…one momentary indiscretion, one systemic compromise could undo what all the competency in the world created.  Just ask Tiger Woods.  Your capacity can only take you as far as your character can sustain you.

So the question is this:  what are you doing to develop your character?  What are you doing to nurture your heart, soul and integrity?  That’s what will sustain your gift in the long run.

Here are three things that have helped me:

  • The discipline to keep a close personal walk with God.  When it’s on, I’m on.
  • Constant input and feedback from wise counsel.  From our elders to close friends to colleagues to my wife to our leadership team, I have people around me who are always building into me personally.
  • Fearing the consequences of messing up.  I think about the impact on my wife, my kids, our staff, Connexus and other friends in ministry and I remind myself how high the cost is, and how low the benefit would be if I ever caved.

How about you?  What keeps your character in line?  How are you building it?

Character finishes what competency starts.


  1. Jeffrey on February 16, 2011 at 10:23 am

    Well put friend. I agree with all three of your character development points. I would just add that great dialogue with our “doing life together” peers is so important for me. Specifically, consistent peer dialogue about staying on top of the simple, proactive things that establish my priorities each week. Good questions from good friends go a long way.

    • Carey on February 16, 2011 at 10:37 am

      Great point Jeffrey. Peer dialogue goes a long way. Thanks!

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