This article was originally published by Mennonite World Review

The heart of integrity

John Maxwell is famous for his saying, “Everything rises and falls on leadership.”

It’s the belief that however leadership goes, so goes the followers, the organization, the business, or the group.

If leadership is underhanded, sneaky, and corrupt, nothing will last.

But if the leadership is open, accountable, humble, and honest, then greatness can be achieved.

And as a leader, in order for you to call forth greatness in others requires something of you first. One key attribute, above all else, can determine whether your leadership rises or falls.

Reggie McNeal, in A Work of Heart: Understanding How God Shapes Spiritual Leaders, explains it this way:

Integrity is a character quality that permeates every arena of a person’s life… Integrity does not keep people waiting or take advantage of them. It reflects genuineness and results from a one-to-one correspondence between public and private life in terms of truth and the treatment of people.

The one character trait above all the others that determines our overall leadership capability is that of integrity.


Integrity and Integer stem from the same source. Both mean ‘to be whole.’ To be a person of integrity means to be a whole person. It means that we present the same face publicly and privately.

The road there isn’t easy.

We all have blindspots. We all have areas of weakness and temptation. We all struggle with sin and shortcoming. We all have embedded inside of us the temptation to look out for our own self interests. Every single one of us needs to look at our holistic health growth plan and address deficiencies.

And if you’re looking for a place to start, look at the heart of integrity.

The heart of integrity is grit

Within the call to integrity, is the call to be a person of grit.

Grit is described as our ability to persevere in hope in the face of difficulty or extreme challenges. In one of my favorite TEDtalks ever, Anegla Duckworth explains that grit is the number one indicator of success.

But she wasn’t the first one to say so. Modern medical science and psychology is echoing the words of the Apostle Paul in the book of Romans: “Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.”

Our sufferings, our shortcomings, our areas of struggle and failure give us the opportunity to practice perseverance in growth. Perseverance (our grit level) produces in us character. Our forming character is one of integrity which provides us hope. We have hope in the work of Christ at work in us and in the world.

Becoming a person of integrity means becoming a person who sticks with things even when they are difficult. In our desire to be holistically healthy leaders, we live internally and externally consistent with our values and beliefs. That ability is what separates exceptional leaders and world-changes from a flash-in-the-pan leader.

I often remind my children that they should never be afraid to try something just because it’s hard. It’s precisely the fact that the task is difficult that makes it worth investing our time and energy in. The difficult task tests our perseverance, which builds character and integrity, and leads us to be people of hope and lasting influence.

Justin Hiebert is a Mennonite Brethren pastor in the Denver metro area. He studied Youth Ministry and Christian Leadership at Tabor College and completed his M.Div. at Fresno Pacific Biblical Seminary. He blogs at, where this post originally appeared.

Sign up to our newsletter for important updates and news!