--2 Chronicles 1:10-12 (NLT)
When the state of Virginia joined the 1861 revolt against the United States, Robert E. Lee sided with the South. Despite fighting on the losing side in the Civil War, this general's fame has long outlived him. Lee is still lauded for his valiant leadership of an out-manned, out-equipped, and out-spent Confederacy. Ironically, U.S. President Abraham Lincoln offered Lee command of all Union forces after the battle at Fort Sumter that sparked the Civil War. But the skilled military leader declared that he would follow his native state "with my sword and if need be, my life."
Far less known to the casual observer of history is fellow Virginian George Thomas, like Lee, a graduate of the West Point Military Academy. Soon after Fort Sumter erupted, Virginia's governor offered Thomas the command of all state artillery forces. Most Virginians, particularly his family, assumed he would side with the South. But in the spring of 1861 he announced he would remain loyal to the Union. Declared Thomas: "I took an oath at West Point to defend the Constitution and to serve my country. I do not break my oaths."
Thomas went on to become a great general, rising to the rank of Union army commander in Tennessee and Georgia. He directed a brilliant defensive stand at the battle of Chickamauga in 1863 and fought with General William Sherman in Atlanta. Historians rank him among the top Union generals. At the end of the war, Congress passed a resolution in his honor. Promoted to major general in the army, Thomas received the command of his choice-the Department of the Pacific, headquartered in San Francisco.
However, he paid a high price for his decision. Loyalty to his country earned him scorn at home. Not only did he sever ties with his native state, but with his own flesh and blood. When Thomas died from a massive stroke in 1870, nearly 10,000 people attended his funeral in New York. But not a single member of his family attended. Asked later why they did not come, one of his sisters replied, "As far as we're concerned, our brother died in 1861."1
What would drive a man to risk deeply-rooted family ties to uphold his nation's honor? I believe it lies in West Point's Cadet Honor Code, simply defined as: "A cadet will not lie, cheat, steal, or tolerate those who do." On a behavioral level, the Code represents a simple standard for all cadets. On a developmental plane, West Point expects that all cadets will strive to live above the minimum standard of behavior. As leaders, they are to develop the kind of commitment to ethical principles that guides their moral actions.
West Point's core mission is to develop leaders of character for the United States Army. A leader of character knows what is right and possesses the moral courage to act on that knowledge. Principles of truthfulness, fairness, respect for others, and a personal commitment to maintaining values constitute that fundamental ideal known as the Spirit of the Code. A leader of character will apply the Spirit of the Code when facing sticky ethical dilemmas.
The conduct expected of military cadets ranks far above that demonstrated in recent years in businesses, corporations, and government agencies. In certain business sectors, discussing honesty, integrity, or ethics prompts laughter. Worse, I have discovered that even in Christian circles simply keeping your word is not a given. I long ago stopped trying to keep track of broken promises made to me in churches.
Given this reality, it is no wonder that Christ's simple command, "But let your 'Yes' be 'Yes,' and your 'No,' 'No'" (Matt. 5:37a) is seldom applied in the business world. By the way, if you have become so enamored of relativism that you think I am being "legalistic" or "pushy" about the need to honor your word, look at how Jesus finished verse 37: "For whatever is more than these is from the evil one."
Code of Values
The question is: What can be done about this sad state of affairs? As followers of Christ in business, I believe we all need to adopt a code that we will operate by, regardless of circumstances. As I compiled a list of admirable values, it became quite lengthy. I suppose you could shorten it by designing some sub-categories, but I recommend not editing it and letting some questionable actions slip through the cracks.
The military code of honor includes four traits:
1) No lying.
2) No cheating.
3) No stealing.
4) No toleration of those who do.
Recently we had a strategic planning session for our consulting organization. From a list of 16 we chose four as the ones that we would emphasize as our core values. They include integrity, reliability, joy, and servanthood. To review each:
Integrity: We want to integrate truth into everything we do.
Well known management experts James Kouzes and Barry Posner are the authors of The Leadership Challenge. Often quoted is a worldwide survey they conducted of several thousand people, seeking to identify the most desirable traits of a good leader. Honesty ranked at the top, far ahead of the runner-up, competence.
Ask almost anyone on the street about the highly publicized falls of Enron, WorldCom, or Martha Stewart and you are likely to hear responses about how people in these enterprises lacked integrity. Interestingly, three of the Ten Commandments (see Ex. 20:15-17) are directly associated with integrity:
Number 8: "You shall not steal." (verse 15.)
Number 9: "You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor (verse 16.)
Number 10: "You shall not covet your neighbor's house; you shall not covet your neighbor's wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor's." (verse 17.)
When I speak of integrity, I am referring to both the popular and classical meanings of the word. The popular usage is to consider integrity and honesty as synonyms, so truthfulness becomes the primary way in which most view this word. Certainly there is no excuse for a lack of truthfulness in our lives at home or at work.
However, the classical definition of integrity is derived from the Latin and speaks of wholeness or completeness. From this Latin root we get words like integer (whole numbers) and integration. It speaks of cohesiveness and oneness, of a bringing together.
I like to think of integrity as the quality of living on the outside, like you think and really are on the inside. Integrity is the integration of all of the aspects of your life into one cohesive lifestyle. When integrity is present, we act the same way at work as we do at a worship service, or the same way at home as we do on vacation.
A glaring problem in many societies is the establishment of different rules for work and home. The woman who would never allow her children to lie has developed a lifestyle of lying in order to make sales at work. The man who would never cheat on his wife regularly cheats on his income tax returns. The church member who professes to believe in Christ thinks nothing of violating copyright laws by burning CDs or copying MP3 files to pass along software and music to friends.
Integrity requires a company to communicate the same message to the general public that it does to its employees. It also requires that a company do for its employees what it promised them at the time of their hiring. Ever felt disillusioned because a raise or other promised perk somehow never materialized? And the explanation of why included the reasonable-sounding explanation of an economic downturn or company restructuring?
The lack of integrity (wholeness) also promotes a compartmentalization of our lives. In other words, we separate our behavior into secular and spiritual realms. If you adopt different rules for your spiritual life than your secular existence, it demonstrates a lack of integrity. Why? Because a person of integrity has integrated his or her values into a pattern of wholeness.
When you think of integrity, do you think of a person who lives up to that standard? I do. And I want others to think of me in that way. Without a doubt truthfulness is part of integrity, but so is living up to one's commitments.
Reliability: You can count on us.
This quality is closely associated with integrity. A reliable person is trustworthy. This person will protect confidential information, can always be depended upon, and provides others the confidence that he will finish the job, no matter how long it takes or how much work it requires.
I remember a game we used to play as a child. Dad would stand behind me and say, "Fall back and I will catch you." And he always did. He was teaching me two things: 1) to trust him and 2) reliability. I could count on him to keep his word. I knew my father as a man who always kept his word, whether at home, in business, or other aspects of his life. I once saw an evil derivative of this game in which a cruel father let his child fall to the ground. His sneering comment: "Never trust anyone."
While it is true that some people cannot be trusted, I prefer to believe the best about others. I strive to develop relationships with those who can be trusted. I have often heard the philosophy that since you cannot trust others, make sure you protect yourself with extensive legal documents. However, what I have discovered is that if you cannot trust someone, a $500-an-hour attorney cannot alter the outcome.
My belief is that change must come from the inside and be evidenced in outward actions. A myriad of rules, laws, and restrictions do little to change behavior. After all, if the Ten Commandments would have persuaded everyone to obey God's law, there wouldn't have been a need for Jesus to come to earth.
Those who boast about keeping all the rules are usually breaking a few behind everyone's back. Better to be a quiet person of reliability who can be counted on at all times. Reliability should be an assumed quality for Christian business leaders. Showing ourselves to be reliable people can change the future. If you have stumbled in this area, today is not too late to establish a new habit.
Joy: Let's have fun at work.
We chose joy as one of the core values for our company because we believe that work should be enjoyable. Since numerous polls reveal considerable employee dissatisfaction with work environments, we want to change the atmosphere by helping restore joy in the workplace. Nememiah 8:10b teaches that "the joy of the Lord is your strength." In fact, there are more than 180 references to joy or joyful in the Bible.
Can you imagine a workplace filled with joy? Everyone is having fun, which lowers stress, increases productivity, and sends laughter echoing down the halls. In my mind, joy represents more than the pleasure of making money. It is a place where purpose, direction, and destiny are a part of work. One of our newest associates told me that working with us was fun "because I sense this is a part of who I am and what I was created for."
When you are able to use your talents in the way that the Lord intended and fulfill the purposes for which He created you, you will find joy. If you carry the joy of the Lord in your life, I believe that you can make a much greater Kingdom impact. This includes co-workers, supervisors, suppliers, customers, and other associates.
Imagine a Christian walking into work who is mad at the world. He might fling open the door, kick the tires on his car, and respond to a co-worker's "good morning" with a belligerent, "What's good about it?" After striding into his office and sitting down, Mr. Grouch says, "Now Lord, use me today." It is not likely he will make an impact-at least, not for God's Kingdom.
Now imagine another worker, full of the joy of the Lord. Happy with life, she has been listening to praise music en route to work. She walks into the office with a spring in her step and sings out, "Good morning, everybody. What a beautiful day. I am so happy. What a great day to be alive. I am so excited about what is going to happen." When she sits down at her desk and prays: "Now Lord, use me," something is bound to occur.
BrainyDictionary.com defines joy as: "The passion or emotion excited by the acquisition or expectation of good; pleasurable feelings or emotions caused by success, good fortune, and the like, or by a rational prospect of possessing what we love or desire; gladness; exhilaration of spirits; delight." Can you think of a joyful person? Why not be one yourself and see the strength that the Lord will add to you.
Servanthood: We emphasize being servant leaders.
I first heard the term "servant leader" from a businessman in our congregation back in 1979. I liked the term then and I like it even more today. Of course, the idea is not new. Nearly 2,000 years ago Jesus advised that "whoever desires to become great among you shall be your servant." (Mk. 10:43.)
More recently a number of management and leadership books on the topic of servant leadership have appeared. One notable title is Servant Leadership: A Journey into the Nature of Legitimate Power and Greatness byRobert K. Greenleaf. First published in 1977 and reissued 25 years later, in these prophetic essays Greenleaf defines servant leadership as a practical philosophy. In his eyes, it should replace traditional, autocratic decision-making with a holistic, ethical approach.
This highly influential book has been embraced by cutting edge management teams across the world. Yet in this modern-day ethical quagmire, which has prompted VISA CEO Dee Hock to label our "era of massive institutional failure," Greenleaf's seminal work is needed in mainstream business circles more than ever. Servant Leadership helps leaders find their true power and moral authority.
Building on the principles that Greenleaf introduced, consultant Ken Blanchard wrote Servant Leader. The best-selling coauthor of The One-Minute Manager, Blanchard and coauthor Phil Hodges reveal the meaning of servant leadership modeled after Jesus Christ. As Blanchard says at his popular "Lead Like Jesus" seminars, "We serve. That's what Jesus mandates. It's clear. The secret of great leaders is they serve."2
Such teaching helps business leaders realize that teams are more powerful than the sum of the individuals and to recognize people as appreciating assets. Blanchard demonstrated this ethic when his company faced staggering losses in the aftermath of the 9-11 terrorist attacks. Instead of the knee-jerk method of slashing staff, he opened the books to everyone and asked for ideas on cutting costs. Not only did they recover, in the middle of October of 2004 they had met their fiscal goals for the entire year. The firm rewarded employees with a mid-winter trip to Hawaii.
"Some of these people have never flown," Blanchard told a seminar audience in Louisville, Kentucky. "They're pumped up."3
A servant leader is someone who wants to help others succeed. Picture someone who puts others first, who does not spend inordinate amounts of time talking about or promoting him or herself. According to principles outlined in Scripture, this is the sign of authentic leadership. Motivational speaker Zig Ziglar popularized the phrase, "See you at the top." We would tweak that to say, "Serve your way to the top."
Other Key Values
While our company chose integrity, reliability, joy, and servanthood for our guiding principles, there is a long list of other values that you may choose to set a vision for your business. Among them are:
This word is often associated with Christianity since it has to do with God and our response to Him. Although that is true, righteousness simply means to do what is right. When a person exhibits righteousness, he or she is always thinking of doing the right thing. Sometimes this will fall outside expected performance standards established by the company. When I say "outside of standards," I do not mean to imply breaking any rules. Rather, I mean going beyond the minimum-walking the extra mile, as Jesus advised in Matthew 5:41.
I once had an employee who had been with our organization longer than anyone else. While an excellent employee, her health had steadily deteriorated, forcing her to take increasing amounts of sick leave. When she had exhausted all of her leave time, including vacation, personal time, and anything else I could think of to excuse her, I told her, "Just take the time you need to get well. Your job will be here when you are ready."
Ironically, she did not need the money. She needed the job. It gave her hope and a reason to live. As she struggled to recover, I told her she could set her own hours and design her tasks. In this case, it was just the right thing to do. A boss who embraces righteousness will not hunt for rules in an effort to make someone conform. Likewise, employees who do right will not be content with simply fulfilling their own job description. Instead, they will find the target as they strive for righteousness.
Just as my father taught me to trust him when I was a young boy, this principle stems from the trait parents endeavor to teach their toddlers. We encourage and reward them for sharing, be that toys or candy. While we may now be responsible adults, building lives that impact for the Kingdom of God, sharing is still a commendable activity.
The Bible speaks of sharing in many ways; sharing resources is one. There is also a need to share credit for a job that involves multiple team members, profits that many helped create, and the workload, especially the part that is fun and brings satisfaction.
Justice or fairness
In his new book, Joy at Work, Dennis Bakke tells that one of the shared values of the company he founded was fairness. He writes,
When it comes to 'fairness' I think we chose the right value but the wrong word. In my lectures, I often ask people to complete the sentence: Fairness means treating everyone _______________. Ninety five percent of the people I ask respond, "the same." I usually respond, "I mean just the opposite." The word "justice" better describes the standard that we set for ourselves at AES (the multi-national energy company from which he has since retired).
I like the traditional Jewish definition of justice: "To each person what he deserves, to each one what is appropriate." If I combine this definition with an assumption that each person is unique, I logically complete the question this way: "Fairness or justice means treating everyone differently."4
Everyone has heard the statement: "Nobody gets special treatment around here." I suggest changing that to: "Everyone gets special treatment around here."
Other desirable values might include:
There must be restraint in all areas of potential self-indulgence. For example, when we do not take care of our bodies through proper eating and exercise, we open the door for the devil to hinder our productivity in business and spiritual matters. This can extend to other areas, such as fighting the temptation to take the easy way out, or refusing to cut corners even if the customer will never notice or doesn't appreciate our efforts.
Many people that I know expect instant results; if something beneficial doesn't happen immediately, they quit. I have seen this with prophetic words that stirred great excitement. A week or month later, when nothing had changed, the person forgot about the message and started seeking other answers. I have seen sparkling business ideas tossed aside because they didn't result in overnight success. Remember that patience is one of the manifestations of the fruit of the Holy Spirit (see Gal. 5:22-23.)
As with servanthood, this is the Biblical way to greatness. First Peter 5:5b says that "God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble." Just think of how you responded in the past to the boss who acted as if he knew everything and looked down on you as a peon-compared to one who asked for your feedback, valued your opinion, and complimented your contributions to the organization.
In a business setting, this speaks to our confidence in God to fulfill what He has promised, as well as faithfulness to the tasks the Lord has called us to complete. It refers to our constant allegiance to the people that we are connected to by ties of love, gratitude, or honor. Like a husband is faithful to his wife, or a wife to a husband, so we must all be faithful to the call of God on our lives in the marketplace.
Early in my ministry to business leaders, I saw little outward response when I prayed for them. Based on my years of experience as a pastor, I was accustomed to getting some kind of response, whether tears, laughter, a smile, or just a slight shrug of the shoulders. But now I was getting nothing; it felt like trying to carve a statute of stone with a plastic butter knife.
Finally, I asked the Lord about it. He replied, "This is my business-efficient anointing." I interpreted that to mean I should stop measuring my effectiveness by the traditional, emotional response. Businesspersons are practical; they are geared for action and finding solutions. As they respond to God's direction, He helps them implement His answers. I believe that the Lord will help us to be more efficient, helping us work smarter instead of harder. Because of God's grace, I believe the day will come that we will accomplish twice the work in half the time.
Another of the manifestations of the fruit of the Spirit, this is the simple quality of being good in all of its various senses: kindness, virtue, excellence, character, giving, caring, and conduct. Goodness is visible in the community, just as selfish, tight-fisted business operators don't go unnoticed.
I once heard a story about a deacon in a Baptist church. Although his social standing and wealth earned him a seat of honor in the church, he was known around town as a conniving thief who would leave no stone unturned if he thought it would bring him a fast buck. Remarking on his status in the church, one non-member said, "If that's the kind of people you allow to serve as leaders, I have no interest in coming there."
This is another way of discussing reliability and trust. The responsible person is the kind of individual who is likely to respond, who will answer when called, or will return calls if he is busy at the time. He will demonstrate responsibility in all areas, including finances, conduct, time, and all aspects of business. Responsibility involves a degree of accountability on the part of the person concerned, such as the person who answers to stockholders, a board of directors, or employees.
This value almost made our top four list. We are to be good stewards of all that God has entrusted to our care. As Jesus said after He told His disciples the parable of the unjust steward, "He who is faithful in what is least is faithful also in much; and he who is unjust in what is least is unjust also in much." (Lk. 16:10.)
Several years ago, I heard a story about two large dogs who regularly passed the house where a much smaller bulldog lived. Each day they went by the house, the bulldog emerged to challenge them. They were larger and outnumbered him two-to-one, so they always won the fight. Still, the little bulldog always came back for more. Finally, the bigger dogs would no longer walk by the house. Whenever they drew near, they would whimper and cry and run back home. The perseverance of the smaller bulldog won. Likewise, there are times when the task seems too big. But if we tackle it with the bulldog's tenacity, we will win.
I have devoted a considerable amount of space to my discussion of the core values, ethics, and character we as business leaders must exhibit. I do so for a purpose. Think of the plethora of companies that have fallen into bankruptcy or disgrace in recent years because of a lack of ethics.
The one trait that all these business leaders had in common: They were brilliant. Many emulated their business practices. They had money, far more than most people on this planet will ever dream of seeing. They possessed tremendous expertise and highly trained and qualified staffs. And yet Enron and a long list of others have fallen from their lofty perch.
Why? They didn't have the core values to motivate them, keep them on track, and check their indulgence for more, more, and more. They lost sight of the overriding core value of love, which seeks to serve others instead of self. As the apostle Paul wrote, "Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal." (1 Cor. 13:1.)
South Dakota's Tom Daschle retired from the Senate at the end of 2004 after losing his bid for re-election. Just before departing, he talked about the moving experience of an unnamed colleague bidding him farewell and saying, "I love you." While that remark generated scorn from the conservative political commentators who cheered his defeat, their views blinded them to the truth of the heartfelt sentiment Daschle expressed. The marketplace needs more love. It is up to God's people to deliver it.
1. This account is adapted from "Civil War Split: Generals Made Hard Choices," by Charles F. Bryan, Jr., president, Virginia Historical Society.Used with permission.
2. From notes taken by co-author Ken Walker at the "Lead Like Jesus" seminar at Southeast Christian Church, Louisville, Ky., Nov. 18, 2004.
4. Dennis Bakke, Joy At Work (Seattle, Wash.: Pearson Venture Group, 2005), 28.
For more resources by Rich Marshall visit the Faith and work Resources. com link to the right of this page.