Character First, But Is Chemistry or Competence Next?

Several years ago William Vanderbloemen and I had a conversation where he asked me to force-rank important qualities to consider when bringing a new person on the team. Many leaders have used three our four C’s as a helpful alliterated tool to describe essential characteristics when interviewing potential team members. You have likely heard the three C’s: character, competence, and chemistry. Some have added “capacity” to the list. So if there are four C’s, they could be defined as:

  • Character: the integrity of a person or the matching of their words with their life.
  • Competence: the skills a leader has, through both gifting and experience, to function well in the role.
  • Chemistry: the fit a person is with the rest of the team and the culture of the ministry.
  • Capacity: the ability and willingness to learn, scale, and grow as the ministry grows over time.

The conversation with William was the first time someone asked me to force-rank the C’s. Obviously character must be first. When a leader’s competence outpaces a leader’s character everyone suffers. Without character a leader will quickly lose credibility and so will the ministry he or she leads.

But what comes next? Is it chemistry or is it competence?

Imagine you have two candidates for a role. Candidate A has displayed more competence than candidate B with more experience and a more extensive proven track record. However, candidate B is clearly a better fit in terms of commitment to the shared values of the staff and church. Which person do you choose?

We agreed that chemistry comes before competence for these two reasons:

1. A person can benefit from the collective competence of the team.

If someone joins a team that is filled with other competent people, people who have learned their roles well and excel in their disciplines, the person’s competence will immediately be lifted. Collective competence is one of the great benefits of a skilled team committed to the same direction as the team makes people better. This, however, is not true with chemistry, which brings us to the second reason.

2. The team suffers when there is not collective chemistry.

Just as a team can raise the competence of an individual, a negative person can corrode the chemistry of a team. A person not committed to the values of the team typically does not get lifted up by the team, but lowers the overall enjoyment of the team. Chemistry on a team is not merely about people liking one another, though that can always be helpful. Chemistry on a team is ultimately about a group being committed to the same values and the same beliefs.

When a team is united on the mission and how the mission is accomplished, the unity is invigorating. And that must be fiercely protected. So character first and then chemistry above competence.

One of the reasons Vanderbloemen is such a valuable resource to churches looking to add team members or plan for succession is their expertise and experience in evaluating chemistry. If you are looking to add members to your team or plan for succession, I encourage you to check out Vanderbloemen.