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All Eyes Are Watching

January 20, 2023 - 4 minute read

I will never forget the first day of my teaching career. School began promptly at 8:00 a.m. I began to position myself towards the front of the room after the first bell brought students to their seats at 7:55. To this day, I clearly remember standing for the first time in front of my inaugural class of sixth grade students as a nervous neophyte teacher. At the sound of the second bell with the entire room eerily quiet, all students’ eyes were firmly fixed on me waiting to hear my opening words and watch my first moves. It was at that moment I came to the humbling realization that leaders, such as teachers, have an enormous capacity to transform lives for the positive or negative.

People always carefully observe the leader. All eyes are watching. What will the leader do? What leaders do is a function of who they are - a composite of the virtues engraved in their character. Chick-fil-A executive Mark Miller (2022), notes that 10% of an iceberg is above the waterline and 90% remains out of sight. Mark uses this analogy as a reminder that 10% of leadership is based on visible skills and 90% on the hidden makeup of the character of the leader. Iconic leadership advisor Frances Hesselbein (2011) sagely asserts that the most important preparation for leadership lies in developing personal character while the rest can be learned along the way. Great leadership begins with a fortified character.

It is not possible to be an effective and authentic servant leader without a strong character. The Greek origin of the word character means “to engrave.” A person’s character is a reflection of the virtues that are “engraved” in one’s heart. Thomas Lickona (1991) defines good character as “knowing the good, desiring the good, and doing the good” (p. 51). Legendary basketball coach John Wooden regularly integrated character development into his teaching, reminding his players to “be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are.” 

President George Washington inherently knew the indispensability of fortifying strong character as the foundation for leadership: “In all my endeavors I have sought to make fitness of character my primary objective.” The ability to improve one’s life and the lives of others as a leader is dependent upon a concerted effort to develop and possess reputable character. Washington reminds us that leaders are responsible for their personal character and should wisely commit to taking intentional steps to strengthen their character daily.

There are three helpful snapshots in the Bible that provide clues on how to develop strong character in life. The first tip comes from examining the life of an exemplary leader of the highest character. Daniel survived a night in the lion’s den after faithfully following the Lord and living a life above reproach. We get a glimpse of an important discipline in Daniel’s life in Daniel 6:10: “Three times a day he [Daniel] got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God, just as he had done before.” We see that Daniel prayed a lot to God. Second, we learn a lesson about character from the Bereans discussed in Acts 17:11: “Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.” Daniel prayed incessantly. The Bereans read the Bible faithfully. Finally, a poignant lesson from Paul who knew a thing or two about character considering his early life as a murderer before his conversion to Christianity. Paul does not beat around the bush in I Corinthians 15:33 when he says: “Do not be misled: Bad company corrupts good character.”

As we lead today in any capacity, it is important to remember that the eyes of many are watching. Who we are as people speaks so much louder than what we do. Who we are is a function of the virtues engraved in our hearts. People are eager to follow leaders of strong character. It is not only helpful, but wise to face God first and frequently by integrating prayer and reading the Bible into our daily lives. It is also very helpful to associate with honorable role models and mentors who can help nurture positive thoughts, strategies, and virtues into our repertoire as leaders. There are too many eyes watching and too much at stake to do otherwise.


Hesselbein, Frances. (2011). My Life in Leadership. Jossey-Bass: San Francisco, CA.

Holy Bible. New International Version. Zondervan Publishing House, 1984.

Jamison, Steve. Wooden on Leadership. McGraw Hill: New York

Lickona, Thomas. (1992). Educating for Character: How our Schools Can Teach Respect and Responsibility. Bantam: Michigan.

Miller, Mark. (2022). Smart Leadership. Matt Holt: Dallas, TX.

Kent Schlichtemeier has enjoyed serving for over four decades as a leader in education. He taught at the junior high school and high school levels before joining the faculty as a Professor in the School of Education at Concordia University Irvine in 1988.

Kent completed his Ed.D. at UCLA in Educational Leadership and then served as a teacher and Assistant Principal at Orange Lutheran High School from 2003-2007 before returning to teach at Concordia University Irvine and most recently serve as the Dean of the School of Education. Today, Kent is thrilled to serve as the inaugural Director of the Servant Leadership Institute.

Kent enjoys frequent opportunities to speak at sports banquets, school graduations, teacher conferences, leadership retreats, and business seminars. Kent is a co-author of the book Timeless Leadership Principles: Building Champions for Life.

Kent and his wife Cindy, are blessed by God with two children - Aaron and Kayla.

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