It's in the small things.

[Originally posted on Feather and Fire in August 2014] I hate food shopping; it is my least favourite part of the week. Unfortunately it is necessary. But is doesn’t change the fact that I am always in a hurry to leave the supermarket.

Every time I leave I am confronted with the decision of whether or not to return my trolley to the trolley bay or to abandon it in the vacant car park next to me. I don’t really want to, but no matter how much of a hurry I am in and no matter how far away I am parked, I always return the trolley.

It’s weird, I know. Yet I often wonder: if I’m not willing to make the right decision when no one is watching, no matter how small or silly it seems, how long before I am willing to compromise on bigger things?

For me it is a matter of integrity. Integrity means to be exactly the same person when you are by yourself or in private as when you are leading a large group of people or in public as what you present of yourself on your social media platform. Integrity is when there is no difference in who you are no matter where you are or who you are with.

At the end of the day, no one I’m leading would know if I didn’t put my trolley back. But putting the trolley back is one of the small every day decisions I make that helps build my integrity and character. Pastor Craig Groeschel says: “It’s often the small things that no one sees that results in the big things that everyone wants.”

We can look at leaders doing great things and wish we had the same kind of influence, but what we don’t often see is that it has been the small things they have done to build integrity and character that got them there. You may not realise it but each choice you make shapes your character and integrity. Small decisions can either slowly build your character or slowly corrode it.

Integrity is essential for a leader. Dr. Robert Clinton says that a leader without character and integrity is not trustworthy and will only be followed if the leader has coercive power (fear tactics and threats) to convince people to follow them. I know I can be a leader without integrity, but I won’t be one worth following.

What I realised is that before I lead others I have to learn to lead myself first. Good leadership is built in private not on a platform. It is built in the small everyday choices. And results in the person I am when I am leading and the person I am when I am in private becoming more alike. I still haven’t perfectly worked this out in my own life and leadership, but I have noticed that the more I have worked on my integrity the easier people have found it to follow me as a leader.

What are some small changes you could make to your everyday life to help build integrity?