Examination and Accountability
On Jan. 28, 2021, Dr. Jon R. Wallace went home to be with the Lord. From 2009 to 2013, Wallace, former president and president emeritus of Azusa Pacific University (APU), was a valued member of Christian Leadership Alliance’s board of directors.
As former Alliance Board Chairman, Dr. John C. Reynolds, President of Los Angeles Pacific University says: “Jon was a leader among leaders who intuitively discerned how to lean in to your God-given purpose and passion, encouraging you to flourish as an excellent professional, and through this an intentional kingdom builder."
Dr. Jon Wallace lived out APU’s motto of “God First.” We treasured his ready wisdom, godly leadership and Christ-honoring encouragement. To honor his legacy we’re republishing (below) his 2012 Outcomes article “Examination and Accountability,” a topic which remains highly relevant for leaders today.
W. Scott Brown, Outcomes, Editor-in-Chief
Examination and Accountability: The key to your leadership legacy by Dr. Jon R. Wallace (Outcomes, Spring 2012)
“An unexamined life is not worth living.” Socrates
The commitment to live an examined life should reside at the center of Christian leadership. Scripture is replete with affirmations of this fact. And today’s world is hungry to believe that men and women of faith, called to leadership responsibilities, thoughtfully and intentionally back-stop their leadership journey with intentional examination.
I am privileged to serve as president at a Christ-centered university whose 112-year motto is “God First.” When I first assumed these responsibilities 11 years ago, that motto influenced steps of examination and accountability that have been at the center of my leadership ever since. When this opportunity first emerged, I was struck by stories of some who allowed patterns of sin, poor choices, and secret acts of disobedience to shipwreck the best of what God intended for them as senior leaders. As I studied men and women who successfully navigated servant leadership responsibilities, one consistent theme emerged: intentional structure of examination and accountability.
One consistent theme emerged: intentional structure of examination and accountability.
In fact, a close friend and mentor, upon hearing of my selection to this presidency, came to visit with a sense of urgency, recounting the story of a great biblical leader. He reminded me that David, a man after God’s own heart, in his early 50s with a long list of battles won, enemies conquered, holy Psalms written, and the love of a grateful nation resting on him, used his leadership power and position in an intentional act of disobedience.
David allowed selfishness to take root in his heart. That led to an adulterous and murderous act that diminished his leadership and brought a relational tear between him and God. The point my friend sought to make was that without intentional accountability, I would be vulnerable to dishonoring my commitment to this servant leadership position. He advised that I begin this leadership assignment by carefully thinking through a transparent and authentic examination process characterized by accountability that matched my best hope for God-honoring leadership.
That significant mentor, and others who came alongside me early on, offered a remarkable gift to me as an emerging leader — a model of practiced examination. Each developed a network of accountability closely aligned with their ministry and leadership responsibilities and unique to their own personality strengths and leadership style.
I have followed their example. My network includes our board of trustees and others empowered to ask me ongoing questions of accountability. This structure of accountability and examination revolves around six questions that I ask of myself and then provide in written form before the executive session of the university’s board of trustees. I have reported on these six questions three times a year for the last 10-plus years.
Let me share them:
- Practice of confession. Is the practice of confession embedded in my life? This pushes back against a secret life that encourages patterns of sin. It recognizes the truth in James 5:16 that when we confess our sins to each other and pray for each other, we lean into God’s power to heal.
- Acts of renewal. Since the last board meeting, have I invested in things that renew me? Renewal refreshes the well of energy, creativity, and passion leaders need.
- Family as a priority. Have I unfairly asked my family to shoulder the cost of my leadership assignment? What positive steps have I taken to honor and value them? When our families are prioritized it will influence every area in our life.
- Evidence of personal, spiritual, and professional growth. How am I different today than I was three months ago? Intentional growth demonstrates a commitment to develop ourselves for God’s glory.
- Life-giving friendships. Are friendships with those who faithfully walk with me and share my life and ministry a priority? To know and be known with transparency and accountability is critical for leaders.
- Living a balanced life. Have my commitments to projects, travel, problem solving, or ministry success encroached on the margins of my life? Margins in our busy lives provide space for confession, renewal, family, growth and friendships.
These six questions, presented as an act of examination and accountability, have positively impacted my leadership role, my accountability to the trustees, my ongoing mentoring, and my family. I encourage you to develop your own unique model for focused examination and accountability. It will be a cornerstone to your leadership legacy.
Known for his ethical leadership and heart for college students, Jon R. Wallace, DBA, served as the 16th president of Azusa Pacific University. In that role, he advanced a vision of transformational scholarship, faith integration, God-honoring diversity, and intentional internationalization. Wallace served as a member of the Christian Leadership Alliance board of directors from 2009 to 2013.