Small Test = “This is not a big deal.”

In a nutshell:  There are no small decisions when my character is involved.

For a leader, the magnitude of the decision should not determine my approach. If my moral compass is involved, then the decision is a big deal.  Too many times we make decisions based on our immediate perception of their impact.

Oxymoron: Small Character Tests

Small Tests-Big Impact

What we lose sight of is the impact our immediate choices have on our decision making in the future.

  • Do I call in sick?
  • Do I change the time stamp on the email I am sending?
  • Do I give back the extra change the cashier gave me?
  • Do I tell someone I just left when I am not in the car yet?
  • Do I omit telling someone of my mistake in the hope they don’t find out?
  • Do I fudge a few unavailable numbers to get the report in on time?
  • Do I exaggerate my role in a story to make the story better?

As you read this list, you can see that some of these decisions have nothing to do with leading a team.  But, they have everything to do with my character.

No matter what context my character is tested in, these decisions are a big deal!  Fibs are a big deal.  Little white lies are a big deal.  Omissions that make my life convenient are a big deal.

Begin Exercising

The small tests are preparing the leader for the larger tests that are sure to come.  I am kidding myself if I think I will suddenly do the right thing in a big test, when I have never exercised the will to do what is right in a smaller test.

It is like exercising.  I am a fool if I believe I can bench press 300 lbs if I have never bench pressed 100 lbs.  We must exercise our moral muscles on smaller decisions if I want to be prepared to lead when things are tough.

For me, each morning I wake up and work out or read my Bible, makes it easier for me to do it the next day.  Each day I skip makes it easier to slack off in the future, as well.  I know the same is true for all of us.

Our habits, positive and negative are formed one decision at a time.  Every time my character is involved in a decision, my choice reinforces an established habit or begins a new one.

Temptations are inside all of us thanks to Adam and Eve’s small decision to bite into the apple.  It is not whether I am tempted that determines my character, but my response to the temptation.

The Bottom Line:

Every time I choose to act honestly or dishonestly it gets easier the next time.  The size of the decision does not matter.

This is great news!  That means I can begin to change who I am today by making a different choice than I made yesterday.  Today, I can begin acting differently and changing my character.

I believe character is our habitual way of operating. 


Choosing to do the right thing in a smaller test prepares me for the larger tests to come.  I must embrace the small decisions and treat a test of my character as the battle it truly is.  I must win small battles to win the war for my character.

For all of us, there are no small tests of character.  Leadership is a blend of competence and character.  But, it is our character more than our competence that determines our ability to lead others.

“Small tests of character” is an oxymoron.


What small tests of character do you need to fight to win?