In a previous My Leadership Lane-Assist post, I made the following assertion:
Job descriptions are fluid. Talent and mission fit are constant.
Maintaining mission focus is one of the most important tasks of a leader. It’s easier to maintain mission focus if you have a mission-fit staff but, still, it does not come automatically.
As Stephen Covey famously quipped, the main responsibility of a leader is to keep the main thing the main thing.
True. There is plenty of evidence that mission fidelity and focus are key to long term effectiveness. Mission commitment without corresponding values commitments and consistent values-aligned comportment, however, makes for some of the most ugly, spiritually dissonant, repulsive, toxic leaders I know.
If mission defines what we do and for whom we do it, values define how we do what we do and who among us should be honored and emulated in our endeavors to do what we do. Values amount to the way we do things around here. Or, to put it another way, values are the way the vast majority of your people — starting with leaders — act the vast majority of the time.
Legendary management theorist, Peter Drucker, was right: when it comes to sustained organizational mission achievement, values eat strategy for breakfast.
So, what Leadership Lane-Assist prompt pertains to these principles?
Simply this, you are more responsible than anyone to model biblical and institutional values — and you are as capable as anyone of failing to live up to those values. The gap between profession and performance is, however, more consequential in your case than for any of your subordinates.
In his 2008 book, Axiom: Powerful Leadership Proverbs, Bill Hybels insists leaders have a responsibility not only to embody but also to enforce values. Subsequent revelation of Hybels’ moral failures does not invalidate this leadership insight: Leaders call fouls.
Here is my question for you: Whom have you invited and empowered to ruthlessly call you out when (yes, I said when, not if) you commit a values “foul”? Is that mechanism built into your leadership dashboard, or have you intentionally ignored — or worse — disabled it?
Some time ago, a gifted, visionary leader I know and admire committed an egregious violation of Christian charity, publicly subjecting one of his colleagues to harsh and humiliating treatment. All who observed it were astonished, rendered speechless, and deeply grieved. Shame on him. The leader’s behavior was entirely contrary to values he espoused and enforced upon other members of the community. Yet, as far as I know, none of his subordinates had the nerve or was granted permission to rebuke him for it. I wish I could tell you this rarely happens among Christian leaders. But I would be lying.
Here’s the thing: I know that I am prone to some pretty bone-headed breaches myself. Consequently, I make it my habit to invite trusted colleagues to call fouls on me every bit as much as I take responsibility to call fouls — violations of biblical and institutional values — on others.
We see this modeled by Apostles Paul and Peter. In his letter to Galatian believers (2:11-13), Paul relates how he confronted Peter — arguably his superior in relation to early church office — when Peter caved to Jewish peer pressure despite his Spirit-validated, biblical conviction that Gentile believers must not be subjected to the strictures of the Jewish ceremonial law. The call-out was as public as the crime. Yes, Paul had the chutzpah to rebuke Peter, but Peter had the humility and leadership maturity to submit to it! Now there’s a leader people will gladly follow.
In his letter to the Colossian believers, Paul commands them to … admonish one another (3:16).
To whom have you granted permission to admonish you? Is your power-distance posture such that no one would dare confront you concerning a values violation?Click to tweet
If this leadership lane-assist prompt is not activated and attended to, you are in grave danger of careening out of your leadership lane into a head-on collision. Or maybe — to push the metaphor further — swerving into a crowded sidewalk and inflicting carnage among your constituents.
Here is a tell-tale diagnostic. Does your ministry (or one of your institutional units) have a persistently high turnover rate? If so, I’ll venture that something is rotten in Denmark. Mark this well, the old adage is true: people join the mission but they leave bosses.
I urge you to install, activate, and monitor Leadership Lane Assist Prompt #13:
Invite and empower trusted colleagues to ruthlessly call you out when you commit biblical and institutional values violations.
More Leadership Lane Assist prompts still to come … stay tuned!
If you’ve missed any posts from my Leadership Lane-Assist series, you can find them in our 4ThoughtLeaders blog pages. Or, if you’re just tuning in, you may want to start from the beginning of the series with my Leadership Lane-Assist introductory post.
Fresh gleanings to fuel your leadership awareness, reflection, and conversations …
Karen Swallow Prior insists it does not. Then she poses a few meddlesome questions of her own: When does our faith in politics overtake our faith in God? Can we support some kinds of sin to prevent other sins? At what point do our actions imply that God wants us to do wrong because he needs us to help him do right? Her answers to those questions — especially coming from a person long, deeply, and sacrificially invested in political opposition to abortion on demand — are worth pondering.