The question that will shape your legacy

By Stan Toler

A television sitcom promotion included an interesting statement by the main character: “I learned about integrity from my father. He had five wives but never missed an alimony payment.”

If worldly integrity is learned by the example of careless character, we are called to a higher standard. The integrity of a Christian leader speaks louder than a sharp resume, a handful of brochures, or a stack of business cards. Integrity is something that can’t be handed to you as you walk across the graduation platform. Integrity comes from within. It’s the result of a focused faith, godly choices, right associations, and a tenacious commitment to truth.

When integrity is present in the life of a leader, it is a beautiful thing. When integrity is missing, life gets messy! Integrity may be one of the least-recognized qualities for new-millennium leadership, yet it will leave the greatest legacy.

Later on, when historians think about many present-day leaders, they will struggle to remember how many people they had on their staffs and will forget how many letters followed their names. What history will remember is how leaders conducted themselves. Leaders will be known in the future primarily by their level of integrity.

In a publication called The Cross and the Flag, the power of integrity’s legacy was chronicled in the lives of two men. One was Max Jukes, who lived in New York State. He was an unbeliever. Jukes had 1,029 known descendants, of whom 300 died prematurely. Of those who survived, 100 were sent to prison for an average of 13 years each; 190 were prostitutes; and 100 were alcoholics. Over the years, the Jukes family cost the state $1.2 million and made no contribution to society.

The second man, Jonathan Edwards, lived in New England at about the same time as Max Jukes. He believed in God and became a prominent Christian minister. Edwards had 729 known descendants. Three hundred became preachers; 65 were college professors; 13 were college or university presidents; 60 became authors; three were elected to congress; and one became a vice president of the United States.

Integrity cannot be faked; the future will bring it to light. The most urgent question for any leader is not “What is my vision?” or “What are my skills?” The most vital issue for any leader to settle is this one: “What is my level of integrity?”

The answer to that single question will shape a leader’s legacy for generations to come.


Copyright © 2012 by Stan A. Toler

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