Leaders as Patrons of Faith

Faith & Work
The idea of faith is often associated with theology. However, more broadly defined, faith means firmly believing in something that cannot be proved.

So how does faith play out in the workplace?

Merriam-Webster suggests that faith involves complete trust, without doubt or question. In viewing leadership from both a spiritual and secular perspective, perhaps the most powerful leaders today are those who convey confidence and inspire faith in those that they are responsible to.

To one who has faith, no explanation is necessary. To one without faith, no explanation is possible”.  ~ St. Thomas Aquinas

The leader/manager is accountable to satisfy many needs in an organization, and certainly in today’s challenging economy, business planning and execution would be near the top of any list of priorities. In part, organizational visioning processes create a foundation for strategic and tactical planning.

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People achieve great things when they see meaningfulness in a cause and see an opportunity for success. The truly difficult part for leaders is to enlist commitment from employees once the direction or path has been determined. The challenge is to create faith in the followers; to create belief, without question, that success is possible.

Five faith-inspiring maxims for leaders:

  1. People function at a higher level when they have some skin in the game.  Strong leaders facilitate discovery of an internal connection (meaningfulness) to the vision – for themselves and others.
  2. Leaders are often seen as symbols of the organization. Integrity builds trust; trust confers believability. Leaders always function with unquestionable integrity.
  3. Celebrating the small successes can serve to reinforce belief in future larger successes. Faith and belief need to be ingrained in an organization’s culture.
  4. Stellar communication practices allow information to flow freely through an organization – in all directions. Leaders need to be exceptional communicators.
  5. Acknowledge concerns and encourage scepticism. Commitment to success is never well-served when disbelief and lack of faith are pushed underground.

It seems that we are increasingly becoming a faithless community. There is a pressing need to trade off belief for predictability and control. For example, consider the current popularity of quality control and improvement programs such as Six Sigma.  It could be argued that these programs are necessary to quantify current performance, but that future potential can best be determined through faith in the unproven, and yet undiscovered, capability within the individual.

Can an organization’s power be increased by inspiring greater faith in the employees?

In your experience, how can the leader/manager effectively inspire faith?

Please share you thoughts on how you are creating a sense of “belief without seeing” in what you are doing. What are some of the challenges? What are some of the benefits that you have experienced when you actually had to step out in faith at work?

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Paul Short is an independent OD and Change Professional.
He can be reached at paul.short@live.ca

Image Source christianitytoday.com
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2 Responses

  1. My brother has a favorite expression which he uses from time to time:

    “A man’s got to believe in something…I believe I’ll have another drink.”

    Notwithstanding the humor and camaraderie this expression typically engenders, I’d advise having a deeper set of beliefs if one wishes to lead others.

    At my organization, BUILT TO LEAD in Central Ohio, we center all our executive leadership coaching around a few key principles, one of which is “Leaders are BELIEVERS.”

    If most of us could agree that credibility (“believability”) is the cornerstone of leadership, then we ask leaders the question: “What do you believe?”

    This is a deep and personal question. We think it’s one that all would-be followers ask unconsciously of their leaders. When the going gets tough, and the storms come, and the enemy is at the gate, will our leaders stand? If they stand, what is it they stand ON, and FOR?

    We find that many leaders find it tough to answer this question with enough clarity and awareness to have trust in themselves, something we call “personal trust.” If such leaders don’t fully trust themselves, how can they ask others to trust them? “Would I follow ME?” is one of the toughest questions any leader can ask.

    This is not so much about spiritual or religious faith as it is about clarity of world view, principles, and core purpose and, secondarily, whether those beliefs bring power and energy to the individual.

    Our journeys with our clients often lead us together to a reawakened spirituality, or renewal of religious faith, but that is not a requirement of exceptional leadership. We find the journey almost always helps those who, along the path, rediscover that kind of faith. There is nothing so powerful as a “soul on fire,” called to their purpose by the ultimate source of creative power, inspiration, and energy. Yet any leader, whatever their belief system, can improve by clarifying and anchoring themselves to a clear and well-thought-out structure of belief. This is true regardless of whether that anchor happens to secular or philosophical, or religious or spiritual.

  2. Thanks for starting this discussion. In our consulting and coaching we refer to this as “sacred leadership”. What is sacred is the mission and its connection to serving the greatest good. This especially resonnates with those in the service sectors e.g. nurturing and educating young people, healing the sick, protecting the vulnerable etc. but we are also finding increased inteerest in the private sector as well.

    Sacred Leaders are able to connect to a purpose far greater than themselves. It is more global in nature and moves beyond the more local “common good” of a community or country to a global connectedness that recognizes our interconnected and interrelatedness.

    Let’s hope those in our political class get the message also. It seems that maybe we are moving in that direction.

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