There are two things we are taught never to discuss at work: politics and religion. But has the reorientation of social norms blurred those lines, opening opportunities for issues of faith to seep into the sacred space of the workplace?
I assert that it is no longer taboo to be a leader of deep spiritual conviction where we are expected to function outside the lines of our faith while occupying our role as leader. Laura Reeve wrote an intelligent abstract on the connection between spiritual values and leadership in her 2005 quarterly review. She states, “There is clear consistency between values and practices of spiritual teachings and the values and practices of leaders who are able to motivate followers, create a positive ethical climate, inspire trust, promote positive work relationships and achieve organizational goals.”
Servant leadership has become the typified leadership model setting up camp in every major organizational environment across the globe. It permeates conversations on leadership and is the source of books, articles and advanced leadership training seminars. But real servant leadership was first introduced by Jesus.
So to qualify oneself as a servant leader capable of exercising humility, there must be a value system rooted in biblical principles. The relationship between faith-based values and business practices no longer has to be antagonistic. Rather, they are married in the heart and mind of the modern-day leader.
The act of people exemplifying their faith is found in the discipline exercised in how they perform their daily tasks. Treating all employees with respect, dignity and inclusion is not the act of complying with political correctness, but it is the commitment to live out one’s God-honoring lifestyle in the workplace.
Acts of grace are the single greatest testament to one’s faith. Making sound ethical decisions speaks more to the leader’s faith than pounding the pulpit of Christianity. There exists an old saying: “People don’t quit their job, they quit their boss.”
This was because people in position of influence led by intimidation and positional power. Achievement of goals ranked higher then engagement of people.
In the last several years, there is a term that has been coined to describe the organizational value of employees — “human capital.”
Businesses have come to recognize that success is predicated on establishing resonance with employees. No organizational objective can be fully reached without a leader who possesses the ability to communicate effectively, connect with team members and inspire action to a common purpose. Bullying tactics have been traded for engagement strategies intended to connect business leaders with their followers.
When leaders allow their own spiritual values to resonate in their actions, relationships flourish. Barriers are easily removed. True influence without hubris is displayed, and servant leadership is realized. Jesus didn’t seek out the rich. No, he sought out the widows and orphans, for this is the religion accepted by God (James 1:27). If men and women of great influence are to lead with servants’ hearts, then they must operate from a position of strength only fully recognized in spiritual values.
Embracing that each individual is uniquely created by God. Seeing the business landscape through a spiritual lens and not a secular one. Studies show that achieving success in business is closely related to spiritual values practiced in leadership roles. Behaviors such as operating with integrity, viewing work as one’s calling, treating employees with acceptance and displaying humility all register high on measures of leadership success.
So in light of these findings, do not feel you have to check your faith at the door of your workplace. Instead, harness your faith and spiritual values as a source of motivation to lead with conviction. Employees will always pay more attention to what you do, so ensuring your actions reflect your faith is one of the best ways to honor God in your work.
Faith in a higher power is a great catalyst for improving one’s intelligence and relationships with others and connecting with the inner strength required to lead in today’s constantly changing economic environment.
Olszak is president of Grace Covenant Consulting, a management and business solutions consulting firm, and a Richmond Hill resident.