Skip to main content

“Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us” (1 Peter 2:12 NIV, emphasis added).

Sometimes, five minutes is all it takes to learn a lesson that will stay with you forever.

Leadership Is Caught More than It’s Taught…

I’m totally convinced that leadership lessons are most effective when they are “caught” as opposed to simply being “taught.” I guess that’s why we often hear people say that they can’t hear what we are saying because our actions speak louder than our words.

It was 1989, and I was facing tough exams to get into one of the best high schools in our city.

In Poland, where I grew up, you didn’t automatically move on from middle school to high school. Instead, you had to take tests, and, depending on your scores, you either were accepted to the school of your choice or you had to go to another school with lower academic standing.

Being accepted to a good high school provided you with better chances of getting into a university later on, so it was very important. Corruption, bribes, and preferential treatment were extremely common, and parents did whatever was necessary to ensure that their children were accepted by the best schools. Such practices were so common that, for all intents and purposes, they were expected.

She Never Knew I Was Watching…

I remember the incident as if it were yesterday. It was late in the evening, and I was sitting in my room studying. My bedroom door was open, just a crack, and I heard the doorbell ring.

My mom opened the door, and one of our family friends walked in. Standing in the hallway, right across from my bedroom, our friend declared in no uncertain terms that she knew I was about to take the entrance exams and that she could “help” get me into the school I wanted to attend. She let my mom know that she was well acquainted with the school’s principal and was open to putting in a “good word” for me.

As I quietly listened to the conversation, hoping my mom would care enough about my future to take the friend up on her offer, she did something I will never forget.

My mom thanked the friend for her proposal but stated that if I couldn’t get in on my own merits, then I would just have to go somewhere else.  There was nothing left to say. Integrity mattered more than opportunities.

The entire conversation lasted maybe 5 minutes, yet the lesson about integrity I learned that evening will stay with me forever.

I don’t remember ever talking to my mom about what happened, but I guess no additional words were necessary. No seminar, sermon, book, or leadership guru could teach me more about integrity than that 5-minute conversation my mom had no idea I was witnessing.

Do What I Say, Not What I Do

Jesus had a bone to pick with the religious leaders of His time.  Jesus’ point of contention was the fact that these teachers of the law, while publically proclaiming the truth, failed to live by it.  In Matthew 23:1-3 we read:

“Then Jesus said to the crowd and to his disciples: ‘The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. So you must obey them and do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach’” (NIV, emphasis added).


As we read this account, it’s easy to lash out at the Pharisees. How dare they know the truth yet deny its power by modeling the opposite! How dare they demand that others around them live by the very principles for which they give themselves a free pass! Such hypocrites!

And then I look at myself, and specific moments flood my mind…

Moments when I failed to live the truth I tried to teach to my sons.

Moments when I talked so passionately about the importance of speaking truth in love yet chose to stay quiet for fear of repercussions.

Moments when I demanded that my spouse treat me with kindness and yet failed to extend kindness to him.

Moments when I judged my co-workers for the very actions I chose to overlook when I did them.

What Do We Talk About but Fail to Live Out?

Jesus knew we’d all struggle with Pharisee-like tendencies. That’s why He told us to “first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye” (Matthew 7:5 NIV).

The New Year is upon us. Let’s use the occasion to commit ourselves to being leaders and influencers who are more often caught doing what’s right than talking about it.

So, what important things can we stop talking about and live out instead? Maybe this quick list will prompt you to think of others:

Don’t just talk about trust…Inspire it.

Don’t just talk about empowering others…Empower them.

Don’t just talk about the importance of clarity…Be clear.

Don’t just demand transparency…Be transparent.

Don’t just talk about failure…Own it.

Don’t just ask others not to gossip…Refuse to listen to it.

Don’t just talk about generosity…Give in secret.

Don’t just expect forgiveness…Extend it.

My mom’s lesson on integrity and standing on principle required no words. Just like Jesus modeled everything He talked about, let’s bridge the gap between words and actions and help this hurting world experience leaders who actually lead like Jesus!

Leave a Reply