I’m writing today with a specific agenda in mind, which is to reach out to and connect with business owners and managers who are seeking to breathe life into their organizations and see tangible ‘fruits of the spirit’ emerge in their companies and in the lives of the people who work for them. I know this won’t appeal to everyone, and I’m aware that some will read this and feel defensive and possibly excluded. I hope if that’s you, that you’ll read this anyway, because I’ll be discussing what just may be the MOST inclusive leadership and management paradigm I’ve ever encountered.
To give you some context, I recently had the honor of working with a dedicated senior management team to create leadership training and guidelines. We wanted to provide some structure around the expectations of leaders, and some behavioral examples. Here are some of the aspects we discussed and formalized:
- We will work to include everyone into the ‘inner circle’ so that no one feels excluded.
- We believe everyone has unique value they bring to the table, and it’s more important to learn what that is and place the person in a role where they’re contributing that value than it is to have a tidy organizational chart.
- We will give, and receive, honest feedback so that we can all continuously improve.
- We will withhold judgment and remain open to other points of view.
- We will be rigorously honest, even when it doesn’t appear to be in our own best interests, because that’s the right thing to do.
- When we’re upset or offended by something, or when someone makes a mistake (even a big one), we will extend them the benefit of the doubt, assume their intentions are good, and use this as an opportunity to learn and improve.
- We will give people the opportunity to take on more responsibilities by training and trusting them, and holding our own egos in check as they grow into new roles.
- We will look for opportunities to truly listen, and seek to understand, when communicating with others.
It may (or may not) surprise you to know that the owner of the company is committed to practicing his Christian faith, which includes all of the above points, in his business, and that he also incorporates prayer into his own personal decision-making regarding his business.
If you’re like twenty-years-ago me, this may sound good but make you very nervous. You may be waiting for the other shoe of bigotry, hatred, and judgment to come into play, where people who don’t ascribe to the owner’s faith are blackballed, or proselytized to, and where intolerance is lurking beneath the surface. Twenty-years-ago me, raised in a very progressive country with progressive views towards religion (meaning I would condone your right to practice your beliefs as long as you weren’t too obnoxious about it or didn’t try to tell me what was right or wrong), a company that even acknowledged spirituality was a disaster waiting to happen.
My personal experience was much different. I accepted an assignment to work for a company with the above values as an atheist – one with a chip on my shoulder, I might add, about hypocritical so-called Christians. What I found instead was a group of people who treated me far more respectfully than I’ve been treated in other companies. I was provided opportunity, and when I messed up, I was given another chance. I witnessed a team that agreed to work through dissension and maintain relationship with one another. I saw senior leadership go out of their way to seek diversity and inclusion. The only word that comes to mind when I describe my experience with this company is transformational. I was not coerced into bible studies, or kept back from promotional opportunities due to my atheism, and I was never made to feel less than or unwelcome. I was shown grace, love, and forgiveness in a tangible way that ultimately showed me God’s love the only way I would ever have been able to understand and receive.
My response was to become fascinated with what made these people tick, and learn more about their faith. Because I’m a scientific type, I researched more than just Christianity, and certainly kept my skepticism intact as long as I could, but ultimately heeded the call. Many of my colleagues who came from a similar background as me were also transformed by the experience and went on to become powerful and effective leaders using the principles of servant leadership. Not all found the faith I did, but they did find a way of managing and leading from the heart that is not only more effective, but also more satisfying and fulfilling. Nobody was left behind, and even though our brokenness made us difficult to work with at times, and at times made us significant liabilities.
As I said, I wrote this article with an agenda, and that’s to ignite excitement amongst business leaders to intentionally bring these principles into practice to transform lives and our businesses. Many of you are already doing this – I’d love to hear your stories. Many of you have been aware that something is somehow missing…this might be it…I would like to connect and establish a community to support and encourage each other to create light in an increasingly dark and cynical world.
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