“Gary, I’m sure you’re a great guy and will do wonderful things. But I need to ask you only one question.” [Pause to be sure I am listening. I am!] “Whenever you are called upon to mobilize, will you go?”
It wasn’t the interview question I expected. There were many factors that could come into play at any point in time. But the question was focused enough to require only one of two possible answers.
And it is odd to give final answers before you know and can measure all the variables! Most people would answer, “It depends.” But that was not the two words we were talking about. Answers about commitment are best given in advance-- like at weddings.
“Susan and I have talked about this, and it’s important to both of us. Yes, I’ll go.”
“Good enough for me… thank you.”
The call did come. Years later, but it came.
It didn’t matter what age the kids were, how many plans had to be rearranged or let go, or how inconvenient the timing was. The decision had been made years earlier. Now we were managing details.
This real-life experience taught me a lot:
First, most key questions can be summarized in a plain, straightforward manner if you identify the essence of the issue. And a clear question should, ultimately, have a simple binary answer. Take the time to figure out and ask the essential question… and let people make their choices. On the record.
Second, once the choice is made, live by it. Integrity is paying the cost you counted.
And finally, if your promises change, integrity requires adjusting the commitment before the people who are counting on you need to count on you. Keep your key commitments current.
Leaders… public servants, soldiers, ministry leaders, parents… don’t say, “Here's what you should do."
Leaders… real leaders… say, “Count on me.”