The Flourishing Culture Podcast Series
“Why Exceptional Leaders Make Integrity a Priority“
November 9, 2020
Jeff and Terra Mattson
Intro: Every leader leaves a wake behind them, and whether the wake is positive or negative depends on their integrity. Today’s episode is for Christian leaders who hope to live and finish strong. What are the secrets that are creating an integrity gap in your life today? To learn about the common pitfalls and anecdotes that will help you flourish, stay tuned.
Al Lopus: Welcome to another episode of the Flourishing Culture Podcast, where our goal is to equip and inspire you to build a flourishing workplace. As we all face today’s leadership challenges as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, we believe having a healthy culture is more important now than ever before. We are here to help you eliminate toxicity, improve your employees’ engagement, speed up new innovation, and grow your organization’s impact.
And before we meet our guest today, I urge you to subscribe to this podcast. As a result, you’ll receive our action guide. It’s our gift to help you lead your organization’s culture to the next level. To subscribe, simply go to bcwinstitute.org/podcast. Hit the Subscribe button and receive our free action guide.
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And now, let’s meet today’s special guest.
If you’re a leader or if you work alongside a leader or you aspire to be a leader, get ready. We’re going to talk about one of the most troubling spots leaders face, something we’ve never talked about here on the podcast. And here’s the trouble spot: leaders who preach one set of values yet live another set are not just harming themselves. And we know that in our hearts, don’t we? A leader’s lack of integrity may generate immense internal guilt and shame, but it also limits the effectiveness of any organization that he or she leads.
Jeff and Terra Mattson are married co-founders of Living Wholehearted, as well as the Courageous Girls movement. They coach leaders in a variety of settings, from corporate offices to leadership retreats to individual counseling. Their professional experience and research have formed this unique perspective on the relationships between leadership and integrity. Their new book is called Shrinking the Integrity Gap Between What Leaders Preach and Live. Jeff and Terra know this issue inside and out, and they’ve got some insightful, practical answers that you can use.
Jeff and Terra, welcome to the Flourishing Culture Podcast.
Terra Mattson: Thank you for having us.
Jeff Mattson: Yes, thank you, Al.
Al: You know, innovation, pivoting, resilience, influence, those are all hot topics in leadership books and conferences these days, especially as we’re still in COVID. When did you realize the need for more conversation about the topic of integrity in leadership?
Jeff: Gosh, I guess, when did I start reading the news? You know? Let’s see. I guess it must have been early elementary days, and began to see a troubling pattern as it relates to the hot topics of this celebrity leader and that celebrity leader and that one in the church and that one outside the church. And God had us, I think, on a trajectory to be leaders early on. We were paying attention to that in the areas of influence that He would give, and we’re still trying to pay attention to that. And we have seen wonderful leaders in our lives and around us and people that we’ve looked and gleaned into their stories and their wake, and you can spot them in many ways. They’re not broadcasting themselves, but you can see their influence.
And then we also have journeyed, like many, in the organizational structures outside and inside church ministries and in business, the marketplace. Been around and under leaders who lack integrity and seeing the devastation. And in our professional work the last 20-some years, really, really walking with people on both sides of the story.
Al: And was there anything that just caused this to come out now, or is it just been something that’s been on your heart?
Terra: Well, it’s interesting. The timing, I think, was honestly God’s timing. As we started writing this, it was way before a world pandemic, just needing to see the connection that was going on with our inner life and our outer life. And kind of the last 10 years, we’ve just seen a lot of performance-based leadership, performance-based Christianity being shared and from the pulpit and in trainings and just recognizing a disconnect between just leaders not having a safe place to really deal with their inner life. And so, honestly, we’ve been seeing this kind of slow and steady climb to drive towards letting charismatic and strong personalities take the lead rather than looking at character. So the timing just happens to land right in the middle of a really prime time in terms of when this book came out.
Al: Yeah, wow.
Terra: Our publisher is David C. Cook, really reached out to us a while ago saying that we are addressing trauma in the church and the connection between trauma and leaders. So, yeah, I think the timing definitely God ordained.
Al: Yeah. Well, let’s get into it. How would you define the integrity gap or an integrity gap? What is at risk when leaders don’t see or address their own integrity gaps?
Jeff: Yeah. Well, first, I guess we would define integrity as really having all the parts of your life—relationships, your mindset, your feelings—really every aspect of your life moving in a singular direction, hopefully a God-orientated direction or hold a biblical world view, and passionate about blending clinical, biblical, and relational wisdom. So integrity really is not perfection. It’s not an event. It’s not a decision that any one of us makes and says, “I am now full of integrity.” It’s a lifestyle of continuous choices over time, every day, multiple times throughout the day. And there’s ebbs and flows in that.
The gap comes, and every single one of us has a gap, the integrity gap we call. Christ was the only One that didn’t have a gap, and that is the distance between what we espouse and say that we’re about and preach, if you will—I’ll use that term loosely—what a leader says and how they actually live. And is there congruency? There’s a distance between these things between what we say and what we do for all of us. No one is, except Christ, perfect in that way. Yet with Him, we can shrink our gap. And as we do that, no matter if we are followers of Jesus or not, it is a noble pursuit to do that because you can influence positively everyone in your leadership wake. And the converse is true. If your gap is growing, whether you are unaware of it or you are aware of it, and you like that it’s growing and you become good at hiding it, everyone in your wake is paying. Whether you see it yet or not, it’s just a matter of time.
Al: Yeah. Right, exactly.
In your book, Shrinking the Integrity Gap, you offer 10 symptoms of a personal integrity gap. Give us a classic symptom or maybe an integrity issue that it points to, and maybe the first step a leader can take to really shrink that gap that you’re talking about.
Terra: Yeah. One of the common ones we see that is partly the nature of leadership, it’s isolation. The higher we climb the ladder, per se, in whatever organization we’re in, there’s just this nature of relationships, dual relationships or confidentiality, the level of stress goes up, we start holding complicated decision making on a consistent basis and not knowing who to turn to. And everything in the church particularly is really intertwined. We cross boundaries quite a bit because you’re not only my employer, you’re my best friend. We go to church together. We’re brothers and sisters in Christ. And so it just starts to get really messy, fast. It’s not just business when it comes to the church and as believers.
And so isolation, where we start pulling back and we start believing a lie that says nobody really understands the level of stress and decisions I have to make. And it’s a slow and steady climb to where we find ourselves really in a dangerous spot. And we know the enemy loves to kill, steal, and destroy and go right after somebody who is really isolated and has nobody else who’s giving them feedback, caring for them, loving them, or really knows who they are just on the human level. And we start to be only known as a leader instead of just Jeff and Terra. And so it’s a dangerous place that we find ourselves, and we’re always warning early emerging leaders to say that is something that you think you’re not going to be impacted by, but eventually it is something every leader faces. And then those that are seasoned that are listening are resonating and going, yeah. It just is part of the nature. So we have to fight against it, and we have to be very intentional about it. How to keep people on our inner circle, who know all of who we are, not just our professional base, who can hold the heavy with us.
Al: That’s really true now, isn’t it? Here we are still in the pandemic. We’re Zooming. Everybody is Zooming. We’re even more isolated than we normally are. And that’s true for leaders, isn’t it? That’s thoughtful.
Jeff: Yeah. I would like to just add that we paint this picture of, I love the outdoors, I love wild in nature, and all creation cries out. So when I had younger children, when they were little, we would spend time watching some Discovery Channel because Dad wanted to teach them a little bit about wild beasts and what God did and how the world [unclear 10:08]. Well, what we know from nature and creationists is that all you have to do is follow the lifestyle of a lion pride to understand what predators are doing and how they isolate the weak, whether young or elderly or sick. And the reality is, is that metaphor is so true in leadership. And as Terra indicated, young emerging leaders have no idea what’s coming. But if they get off trail, away from community, in unsafe territory and are isolated, they’re vulnerable to the pitfalls of leadership and also to predatory behavior, if you will. And so what we want to do is we want to, as an antidote to that symptom that leaders are vulnerable to—and that’s kind of what we write about, the symptoms that leaders are vulnerable to—an antidote to that is, as Terra said, having key relationships.
One of the things that we recommend is that a leader in an organizational setting, that they have at least one or two other relationships outside of that setting that really know them well, that have no strings attached, their livelihood isn’t attached to that leader. There is no power of authority structure that’s involved in that. They’re peer to peer or even a mentor to mentee to that leader, if you will, and can speak to—and that leader is open to that person’s influencing them in their lives. If they have that, that’s a very important key to be able to navigate the pressures of what’s going on inside their organization and all the pressures of their leadership. That’s part of the process of defending against isolation.
Terra: Yeah. And we’ve heard leaders, just to your point of the pandemic right now and the overt isolation we’re all facing, we’ve heard a lot of leaders just resonating with how lonely it feels right now. And in many cases, it’s easier to hide because we don’t have to face anybody. So if we had key relationships in our life, it’s really easy to pull back from that. And so that is a danger zone.
Al: Easy to hide, yeah. That’s… yeah.
I like what you’re saying, Jeff, about the anecdote and having key relationships. And for our leaders out there listening, I just encourage you to make sure that you’re in touch with those key relationships. I think of Doug Nuenke, who’s the president of The Navigators, and I know several people who are on his—he has a group of people that meet with him once a month. They have a pretty extended telephone call or a Zoom session video conference, and they’re not connected with them in terms of their ministry, but they are connected with them as people. And as you’re talking about this, I realize even more now how important that is.
So what’s the upside for the staff culture? We’re all about organizational culture. What’s the upside for a staff culture or ministry organization when a leader’s integrity gap begins to actually shrink?
Terra: Oh, man. There’s so many upsides to that. There’s a sense of trust that begins to build in that culture as they are able to actually see that that leader is the same in many different places. There’s a sense of authenticity that starts to happen, and vulnerability. A leader doesn’t have to hold an image. They can really rest in their own humanity and seeing that God is using all of who they are, not just who they think they’re supposed to be. And they can trust the leader. They can trust the consequences to God in terms of the decisions they’ve got to make and to know that there’s some greater good going on in the community versus trying to be the manager and holding too tight to all of the consequences, becoming overly controlling. Those are just a few of the things I think about. Jeff’s got a few.
Jeff: Gosh. I think one of the biggest and most important is that a leader who is closing their integrity gap and being intentional about that is now able to recoup the energy that they were putting in trying to get their needs met in unhealthy ways, if you will, call those maladaptive coping strategies, whatever they are—
Terra: There’s a lot of them.
Al: A lot of names.
Jeff: Yeah. Now they can recoup that energy and actually to give—and here, Robert Greenleaf’s model of servant leadership is so important—they actually are in a position to be others’ focused. That doesn’t mean that they’re the doormat here, but it means out of health, they can actually have energy to look and spot others’ needs, enter in, provide leadership so that people can thrive in their roles and positions and what have you. The leader is attuned. They’re not focused on themselves. And that can only be done when a person has done the hard work—we say to get their baggage down to carry-on size. It means that they can take on some others in a healthy way or help bear the load for others from a giving perspective not a taking perspective.
Al: Yeah, right. Well, so having trust, building trust by having a small or nonexistent integrity gap really is helpful because you’re able to spend a lot more energy serving others. I love that idea.
You know, your research and writing spotlight a link between high-performing leaders and trauma, which I find interesting. You suggest that unresolved trauma lies at the root of many leaders’ integrity gaps. And I’m just dying to find out a couple of examples of what this looks like. How can a leader know if unresolved trauma is actually impacting his or her integrity?
Terra: Hm. Well, several questions in there. I’ll try to answer them because those are really great questions. So the first link that we see between high-capacity leaders and trauma, it’s interesting because there’s two responses to trauma. And let me first define trauma. Trauma is really anything out of the ordinary. And we often minimize that for trauma survivors, “Oh, it’s not that bad. There’s a lot of worse cases out there. That only that just happened.” That’s what you’ll hear from trauma survivors. But if you’ve had a divorce, maybe a parent was alcoholic, you went through—you moved a lot as a kid, those are things that are more on the more-normal-type traumas all the way to more significant abuse, you know, so you’re for life or death, things that we would, most of us, would consider traumatic.
Those often will produce two kinds of responses. One is performance based. I’m going to prove that I will never be hurt again. Or I’m going to prove my worst, because of the shame that comes with toxic shame that comes from trauma. I am bad, something’s wrong with me, these things happen to me. Or victimization. And so high-capacity leaders often look like the over performer. And trauma, actually, the more difficult our childhood, the more intensity and stress we can handle. In fact, trauma survivors make really powerful leaders because they’re not afraid of anything. They’re like, eh, been there, done that. Right? And our stress levels, we have a higher capacity for it because we have more training in that. The difference is just somebody who’s actually worked through their story, grieved their story, their brain can actually come to that place of healing and become more others centered, as Jeff was talking about. When you’ve not processed it and you’ve just pushed it aside and dismissed it, then you’re going to be dismissing everybody else’s pain around you. And those become very dangerous leaders over time.
The last question you said was, How do you know? And I would say over time you start to find yourself not able to slow down. You’re constantly in stress nonstop. You don’t know how to rest. You don’t know how to be just with people. You’re always trying to do something and to prove yourself. The inner voices are full of shame. Keep going. At night it’s hard to sleep. And we’re not listening to those close relationships that are saying, “Hey, something’s going on. Your irritability is going through the roof.”
Jeff: Maybe you’re adding addiction to the equation—
Terra: Hiding… yeah.
Jeff: — in any of its forms to try to get the short-term fixes, the dopamine hits that your body’s craving. And that increases isolation and hiding, right?
Al: Yeah, right.
Jeff: Because of the stigmatization to some of those practices.
Terra: Yeah. Some of the most innovative minds has some of the most traumatic backgrounds, and most would be shocked by their stories. So it’s not that we want to say that a trauma’s bad. I mean, trauma’s not good, but it’s what we do with our trauma and how we process our story. That’s really the key nature. And to be honest with ourselves and with a few other people. Do they know? Do they know?
Al: Yeah. Well, so, trauma. That’s fascinating. And your key is have we really worked through the trauma that we’ve experienced? And we’ve all experienced trauma in different forms. I mean, you mentioned things that happen to you: your parents are divorced or they’re alcoholic or you moved around a lot. Those were interesting. But not even talking about abuse in any way, whether it’s sexual or emotional or that kind of trauma. Or we’ve just experienced a COVID situation and our jobs are in jeopardy. Or we’re leading a Christian camp, and we can’t actually meet or have people come to the camp for the purposes to accomplish your mission and vision. And so here we are. Leaders experience trauma. And again, in isolation, as you pointed out, that all just kind of builds on each other, doesn’t it.
In your mind, why do Christian leaders have a hard time being honest about their personal struggles? I mean, is that true just of Christian leaders? Or maybe it’s just more broadly speaking. But how can we take steps to change the reality, particularly in a workplace culture where a leader’s integrity is absolutely essential, as we know at the Best Christian Workplaces Institute, how a leader’s integrity is essential to a healthy culture and a sustainable ministry?
Jeff: Well, I think in some parts, one of the things that comes to my mind is that in Christian circles, whether inside or outside the church, there’s tremendous pressure, maybe more pressure, we would argue, than those that aren’t in the church, and the reason why is that of the beautiful things that scriptures and our Lord Jesus has called us to be about. And the trouble, though, is that every leader is a human, and we come from sinful nature. And Christ is redeeming that, hopefully, as we are part of that process, in the sanctification process. But that’s a process. That’s life. That’s life and living. And I think that what we do sometimes is we forget as leaders—and many have. We’ve seen this so many times—we begin to forget, and we begin to forget that that’s the truth and that we as leaders need the Lord Jesus every day and in every way. And what we start doing is we start emphasizing putting ourselves on pedestals that only Christ should be on, or others on pedestals that only Christ is worthy of worship. And we do it. Humans have a tendency for hero worship. This has been documented. Lots of studies have been done on that. We’re vulnerable as humans to look to that.
Now, a leader that has an ego and has pride, and all of us need to learn how to check that. If that goes unchecked and the integrity gap is growing, even the distance between what we would espouse, of course, as many pastors, many Christian businessmen and women would say, “Of course, I follow Christ, and He’s the Lord of my life.” Well, how is that working out as it relates to your public communications? How is that working out with regard to the signs that you post and your cultural identifiers within the business and office space? How does that work out? What is the behavior of the audio and the video? Are they congruent? Are they matching?
I would say, too, that we get into trouble, of course, because then how could we as a pastor, how could we as a prominent Christian businessman or an entertainer or what have you, that’s known, what would happen if people found out that I’m struggling with drugs? What would happen if people found out if they knew that I actually am caught up in pornography?
And the pressure to confess or find repentance, even though we know this in our minds, that God set it up so that we could be free and not have barriers between us and Him, the fallout is too great. And over time, that drives many leaders to continue to hide and to internalize. And basically, it’s, in some sense, a form of idolatry, we would say. We start worshipping our need to protect getting our needs met in unhealthy ways. And as time goes on, the gap increases, and it intensifies even the need to protect the images that now we’ve set up and we couldn’t bear the thought of those images.
Terra: Yeah. I think we’re also looking at we would love to see just kind of a discipleship reform, like really learning that God is on a slow and steady transformation in our lives, that it’s not this quick prayer, done and one kind of thinking. And I think culturally as a church, we don’t like pain. We think God’s only in the blessings. And we forget that actually He wants all of who we are. And we always talk about the David and Saul connection. They were both a mess, right?
Terra: It’s not like David’s line was just perfect. But it was their response when they were confronted. That’s what we’re always looking at is when the Lord is convicting me of something, what’s my response? When someone else comes to me and says, “Hey, what you said there doesn’t quite match up with who I know you to be,” what’s our response? Saul was constantly defensive. Maybe he even wept, but he was weeping because of the consequences, not because he was fully remorseful. David’s heart was really broken. And there were long-term consequences we saw with David’s life. And so I think we’re always trying to manage the consequences, and we have to trust God with that piece. And he’s calling us to freedom. And honestly, I think we gain more trust in our honesty and in the reality of being real before one another in our workplaces, in our culture.
Jeff: You know, trauma, there’s no quick fix to trauma. It’s stored in the body. The neuroscience is clear now, and it’s actually wonderful because whether secular scientists or sacred, if you will, the evidence is there of God’s design. I mean, that He can heal and rewire our brains. It’s incredible. But that doesn’t happen overnight. And trauma’s stored in the body. And that’s why people, high-capacity leaders, need to be curious. Not that they need to be focused forever on that, but they need to do the hard work of looking back to making sure that they haven’t minimized things that happened early on and how they may be leaking, whether they know it or not, in their leadership style. And feedback is a huge part of that, right? And with a trusted few, do I have people in my life, in my circle of trust, if you will, that aren’t associated—I’m not tied to their livelihood. I don’t employ them—that I can receive influence from that can know me and know me and see me over a longer period of time, not just a resume or a great job of fooling somebody in an interview for you, but about an increase, I think, discernment in the vetting process. Boy, wouldn’t you like to see more H.R. departments and people looking to hire develop their vetting process even more so to ensure that they’re not bringing someone on who has not done the work from personal history and trauma? And that’s how we get stuck, especially in the church, repeatedly hiring and passing on one trauma person leader to another. And they wonder why the church is in such a disarray.
Al: I trust you’re enjoying our podcast today. We’ll be right back after an important word for leaders.
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Al: And now, back to today’s special guest.
Well, I’m in the feedback business. I know exactly what you’re talking about. In fact, I was just thinking about how leaders resist feedback and how I’m beginning to believe that, again, I believe in the disciplines of prayer and I believe in humility and I believe in, also, self-knowledge. And what you’re saying is leaders need to be knowledgeable about the true impact of trauma that they’ve experienced in their lives and how that is impacting them now and how they need to do the work to move through that. And if things are leaking, then how will they know that? Well, of course, they need to receive some feedback about that. So, yeah. We’re all about feedback here, that’s for sure. Yeah, that’s insightful.
Terra: I want to say, too, that if we don’t hear the feedback, then God has designed it that we’re so interconnected, our bodies will actually start to tell us. I think that’s something that eventually we hear. One of the chapters we touch on is burn out. And we see a lot of leaders that push and push and push and ignore, ignore, and/or our marriages start to face struggling or our children. So we start to see the wake of us ignoring the feedback starting to have a ripple effect.
So we’re saying we can do a lot more work before the worst-case scenario is hit. But some of us, I think we just did an interview with a leader who was so honest, who just said, “I had to have all my options used up before I was really willing to face the feedback.”
Terra: And I think that’s the theme of our stories. And that’s okay, too. But eventually, God’s in the business of taking all of our brokenness. We just need to be honest about it.
Jeff: [unclear 28:46] right. You know, have compassion on people who are struggling. We’ve walked through, again, leaders on both sides of the equation and their systems, whether they’re families or colleagues or what have you that have been beneath them or beside them. Great compassion. Thank God for grace.
Jeff: And it is amazing. And yet, at the same time, here, how does this change? How do we see more leaders living with integrity and influencing out of integrity and using as much of their energy that they have in their limited time here on Earth to have an impact for the kingdom, wherever God’s placed them. So how does this change? It changes with the next generation of leaders and us looking to emerging leaders and equipping them and challenging them. But also, in a way, it’s invitational that they can hear it. And, my gosh, we need, as you would, I’m sure, agree, we need more and more mentors that are equipping the millennial leaders right now, because it’s essential that we help them get their baggage down to carry-on size, that they see the need to do that so that they are less vulnerable to the pitfalls that every leader will face—it’s just a matter of time—and more equipped to not be getting their needs met in unhealthy ways, but actually to serve others. That’s, I think, how it changes. Though it’s a tall order here, but we’re trying to make a small dent.
Al: Let’s try, yeah.
You just brought up, Jeff, kind of my next question. And your book is designed for both emerging leaders and seasoned leaders. And so how might these two groups think about and address integrity gaps differently? And for listeners who want to begin shrinking their own integrity gaps, where can they begin today? There’s a couple of questions.
Jeff: Yeah. Maybe I’ll start by talking about the emerging leader, and, Terra, you want to talk about seasoned leaders?
Terra: Sure. Tag team.
Jeff: All right. So emerging leaders, we’ll say, you already know. You know that you can’t—you’re over your skis, many of you, but you don’t want to tell anyone. Listen to your heart, especially if you’re a follower of Jesus. Listen to the Holy Spirit that’s drawing you towards seasoned, more mentor-experienced people who aren’t going to patronize but are going to turn towards you because they care about you. And learn to receive influence from people like that. If you are reading this book, we’re hoping that leaders even in, gosh, seniors in high school or undergraduate students and graduate students, for sure, when you’re reading this, thinking and considering about the symptoms that you’re going to be vulnerable to as you are given more influence, of humility now, listen in your own heart and look at these aspects. The antidotes that we provide to the 10 symptoms that we list are very practical. They give you the next steps to explore. It’s not saying you have problems with all 10 right now. No. It’s saying, gosh, listen to what is resonating with you in the moment. Maybe it’s chapter three or chapter five. But every leader, whether young or seasoned, should be relating to multiple chapters here. And it’s something you can pick up again, right? After you’ve read it once, you can come back and go, gosh, I’ve got a feeling I’ve burned out. What was that about there that I can read through?
Al: So, Jeff, I’m going to test your memory. You mentioned 10. Can you tell us what those 10 are?
Jeff: Yeah, let’s see. In order.
Terra: I don’t know about in order, but we talk about trauma.
Jeff: Trauma and triggers, right?
Jeff: Trauma and triggers. We’ve got isolation.
Terra: Guilt and toxic shame—
Terra: —which are a result of the trauma. We talk about escapism and compartmentalism—
Terra: —which, again—
Terra: —makes you a superstar at work, but not so well at home.
Terra: Mind thoughts, not being a good listener.
Jeff: That’s six. Okay.
Terra: Yeah. Being great at talking, but not always being able to listen.
Terra: Yeah. Isolation and burn out. People are confused by burn out, but burn out is a symptom, is a weed from when we aren’t paying attention to our inner life. Hiding, so when we’re afraid to be honest. And I don’t know. Is that 10? We don’t know.
Jeff: Got confession and how difficult it is to confess.
Jeff: Yeah. So, okay, we got most of them. How about that?
Al: Yeah. That’s great. All right. Thank you. Yeah. All right.
And Terra, you were about ready to—
Jeff: And narcissism.
Terra: Oh, yes!
Jeff: We can’t forget that. Narcissism. That’s one.
Terra: Yeah. We [unclear 33:08].
Jeff: That’s one chapter.
Terra: That’s huge.
Al: You know, we’ve never run into any narcissists. I don’t know. Great.
Terra, you were going to talk about the seasoned leader.
Terra: Yeah. So the seasoned leader, you know, it’s funny because people have said, “Oh, gosh, I’m really nervous to read this book.” And I just always remind people that it’s from a posture of grace. And we really do trust that the Lord is gentle and humble in spirit and will speak to you where you need to listen. But I would go in with a highlighter, and I would just listen to what the pieces that are speaking to you and attune to the care, the chapter that you need attune to and do that work. And then grab one or two other younger emerging leaders or your team. A part of being seasoned is being able to pass that baton on and really coming alongside and being honest and vulnerable about your journey, the things you messed up on, the things you look back on and go, “Man, I wish I would have known this then, but I know it now, and here’s how I can give you a leg up.” So we just really see this book really being a resource for the entire body and being able to hopefully see generations changed over time. And again, it’s building consistent relationships. So I would say if you’re seasoned, pick somebody to walk with for several years. Don’t just be in and out of that life for a month or two or sporadic. Be super intentional. Read this book together, and then chew on it. Take your time, go slow. But it is convicting, but it’s out of love, and you’re going to be better for it if you face your own integrity gap.
Jeff: We are convicted—
Terra: All the time.
Jeff: —as we’ve hoped, throughout the process. What does this do? It creates positive deterrents that are healthy, that help us to remember that we are also aspiring to close our integrity gaps and live and lead with greater integrity for the right reasons. All a man’s or woman’s ways seem innocent to them; motives are weighed by the Lord, as Proverbs, you’ll find it says. And the Lord knows our hearts and searches our motives, and is for us and is rooting for us. And we cannot do this journey alone. We need to be spurred on. It is, as you know and can attest to, the journey of leadership is hard. And if young leaders who have fantasized about gaining power, influence, and authority and finance or what have you, they need to read this so that they are more well equipped with this. So a healthy sobriety as to what the journey is calling them toward, what it will actually be like, some of these markers here.
Terra: It’s also rewarding.
Jeff: And worth it, right?
Well, I love what you’re saying about originally, Terra, about emerging leaders. Listen to your heart, so really kind of pay attention to your heart. For a lot of leaders, they may not really be in touch with their heart naturally. I’m an Enneagram three, understanding my own heart and emotions is not something that I’m great at, but I’ve developed through disciplines, been able to do that. Sometimes it takes me a little while to understand what my heart’s telling me. But listen to your heart and seek mentors. I think that’s just great advice. And then be sure that you’re with your success as a young leader, stay humble so that you continue to learn. Those are great steps. And also, Jeff, I like what you say, you know, for a seasoned leader, bring people along with you on the journey and share with them. We’ll talk about some of those 10 items that you’ve mentioned and how you’ve weathered the journey. And I’d say for any senior leader, of course, let’s finish strong as the way I’d say. We’ve just seen way too many leaders that we’ve admired from afar in many cases just lose their way before the end of the journey, so let’s all finish strong.
As we come to the end of our time, I’d like to ask this question. As you worked together writing a book, what was the most important thing to you that you learned about integrity, maybe individually and as a couple?
Terra: Well, I think you’ll hear us say integrity is a lifestyle, not a movement. And so that was tested in real time as we wrote this book as a husband-and-wife team. We’re business ministry partners, we co-parent, and so trying to listen to one another, I mean, each chapter was tested, right? And like, do you have a voice? Do I have a voice? And can we stay present and honor one another in this process? So I think I have a voice that comes out, and some leaders might—it’s this voice that says, “You’re a fraud, Terra,” whenever I struggle with something. And that was constantly something I was facing as we were writing this book. I was like, I don’t want to put this in print, because now we’ve got a big target on our back that says, oh, Jeff and Terra are this big [unclear 38:10] couple. But I think what we’re trying to say is we are honest, and we’ll tell you when we’re struggling with something. And I actually had to step out of my accounting practice for a little bit in writing this book because of the burn-out chapter. And I really would, as I was writing it, the Lord was speaking to me, and I was realizing I was showing a lot of these symptoms. So coming face to face, being honest, and then just being able to turn and get the help I needed. And so I’ll be going back and rereading this book as well.
Al: Okay. All right. Well, maybe we’ll talk about it after you read it again.
Jeff: I would say, just the two of us, it was important we stayed together here in this process. We talked about what happens when something’s isolated. Well, we say in the book that it generally is dying. So how do we stay connected to each other? Keeping our priorities with the Lord’s number one. And two, our girls. We have two daughters who are now almost 12 and then 13, almost 14. So those three things. That order is critical. There’s no mixing up that order. There’s no forgetting, and there’s no placing anything above that order in that space. So how do we take care of those three things and then provide room for the other things, our work activities, our ministry, our friendships, our extended family? And there’s lots of freedom in that order. So, gosh, it was tested. It was challenged, no doubt about it. But I will say this is that I think God got us through together, and we’re stronger for it. And now it’s the fun part. We’re not stuck in the developmental editing space, although God bless Stephanie for that. We’re able to talk about it, using our gifts and the joy we have in seeing this work we use any way God sees fit. And we hope that He uses it for His glory.
Al: Well, this has been very helpful, and we’ve certainly learned a lot, and especially at this time of COVID, I think what you brought out early on is that we really need to avoid isolation as leaders. That’s a dangerous place for us to be in, and to really develop key relationships that will keep us honest, to keep us real, and, as you say, keep us authentic as we build trust-building relationships going forward. And it’s just been your encouragement to emerging leaders, to seasoned leaders, just really great information. Thanks, Jeff and Terra, for all you shared with us.
How about anything you’d like to add that we’ve talked about?
Terra: Well, I just, I wanted to say that God is showing me that it’s not always what we do, but what we do after what we did that matters most. That’s from a play therapist that I really respect. And it just translates into all and every part of our life. So wherever you are, as you’re listening, to know that God wants to use you right where you’re at and to start today, don’t wait until Monday, and to be able to really consider the question, Does anybody know all of me? Do I even know all of my story? Have I really sat with my inner life? And maybe start and consider start with God, but if you can reach out to one or two others in your community, do it today.
Jeff: Begin the journey towards wholehearted leadership. If you’re a follower of Jesus, He’s calling you towards these things. He’s going to equip the work of your hands. He’s going to be with you in the process as you face and look back in the past, making sure that there’s nothing there that is impacting your present leadership. Ask Him to show you, like David, have that heart. Search me and know me; test me and see if there be any wicked way in me. Lead me in the way everlasting. And so that was the heart of David. And let’s be like that. And that’s the heart of Christ is to draw this out so that we can authentically, with all that we are, as much as we can in this lifetime, be in the position of giving as we serve like Jesus did, not taking to get needs met in unhealthy ways. With that comes great joy and freedom comes from God [unclear 42:14] first. It comes horizontally in our relationships. It impacts our leadership. And that’s how you finish strong. You know? I’m thankful to have had people in my life that I could see that did that. And we need more people that the up-and-coming generation can say, “They finished strong, and because of that, I saw how they did it. They brought me along in the way, and I’m going to finish strong in Jesus.”
Al: Yeah, yep. Great.
How about one last thing? We’ve talked about a number of things. I like what you just said: to begin the journey of wholehearted leadership. One last thing you’d like to leave with our listeners?
Jeff: Just would say thank you for stepping towards leadership. Thank you for those that will have the courage and humility to start to reengage their journey in this way towards integrity. And that’s mind, body, heart, words, actions, our relationships, everything—that it will be moving in a God-orientated direction. And you and others in your wake will reap the benefits. No, I think that’s what God’s calling us to do. So thank you for having the courage to be that kind of leader, those that are. Thank you to those that have been doing this and are continuing to do this. We admire, respect you. And let’s see more of these types of leaders.
Al: Jeff and Terra Mattson, authors of the new book, Shrinking the Integrity Gap Between What Leaders Preach and Live, thanks so much for sharing your wisdom, insights, and stories, and thank you for investing in everyone who’s been listening and benefiting from all you’ve shared with us today.
Terra: Thank you. Thanks for having us, Al.
Jeff: Thank you, Al. Thanks for having us.
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