Articles of Faith: The Christian Humanist Epidemic

Two Faced Christian
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This post is part of our Sunday Series titled “Articles of Faith.”
We investigate leadership lessons from the Bible.
See the whole series here. Published only on Sundays.
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Christian leaders are called to be servant leaders modeling the way that Jesus Christ led. They are called to be in the world, but not of the world.

“Most Christians in business are Christian humanists. We are theists in terms of God, but humanist in terms of how we run our business.” ~Brett Johnson Christian think-tank leader interviewed in “Bold Leadership: Biblical Principles for Marketplace Impact”

This epidemic of our leaders choosing to lead their organizations and their families in such an oxymoronic way, as if God is a pinch hitter in their life, is an issue that all Christian leaders need to address.  Are we as Christian leaders living and leading in a way that honors and magnifies God?

Personally I have not always led and lived as if there was life after death, and I wonder how many opportunities I missed because I did not lead and live as God calls me to.

Getting it Right

How are you leading? And how should you lead?

I challenge you to do some deep reflecting, looking back on how you have led both in the good times and the bad, has it reflected God? Have you led in such a way that you would be proud if your children followed in your footsteps? Have you led as a Christian leader or a humanist leader?

What is the solution and how can I lead EFFECTIVELY if I am to lead in a CHRIST honoring way?

Isn’t that also an oxymoron?

NO it is not an oxymoron!  In my book Bold Leadership: Biblical Principles for Marketplace Impact I wrote on this topic of being BOLD in the marketplace.

The word “Bold” is used 31 times in the Bible, and all but five of those are found in the New Testament. “Bold” is used most often in the context of preaching and/or teaching.

Being a “bold leader” is actively integrating your faith by embracing biblical principles in your role as a marketplace leader.

A Call to Stewardship

Don’t get me wrong, being a “bold leader” in a world that is increasingly hostile towards God is difficult and requires us to be bold!  However, as Christians we are called to steward that which God has given us.  Most individuals tie idea of stewardship with a monetary definition, when that is not the whole definition.

The definition of “steward” is to “manage another’s property, finances, or other affairs.”

If we apply the whole definition stewardship takes on a whole new level.  As Christians was know (or should know) that EVERYTHING we have has been given to us by God, and we are simply called to steward it wisely, that means your LEADERSHIP ROLE as well.

A Leadership Parable

In Matthew chapter 25 Jesus tells the parable of the bags of gold.  In this parable a master gives five bags of gold to one servant, two bags to another, and one bag to the last according to each servants ability.

At the end of this parable the point of the story wasn’t to distinguish between the size of gift each servant was given but what each servant did with what they had been given.  If we are truly to apply this definition of stewardship to our ENTIRE lives and not just pieces of it, we must steward what we have been GIVEN by God effectively.

He cares about what we do with what he has given us.

How to Practically Apply “Bold Leadership”

 In my recent book Bold Leadership: Biblical Principles for Marketplace Impact  I share many practical tips specific to the stories and insights shared in the text.  From practical ways to honor God in the way we approach difficult decisions, how we engage with employees, how we prepare for opportunities, and much more.

Leadership is fundamentally about influence, every interaction with others impacts the influence you have; act wisely. (Excerpt)

Leading Your Whole Life

Take some time brainstorming over each area I addressed and assess where you rank on the Bold Leader spectrum (Are you theist or humanistic in your leadership approach).  I encourage you to take God out of the pinch hitting position and place Him in His rightful place, he has given you your role, use it to honor Him, everything else is pointless.

If stewardship applies to EVERYTHING that you have been given, your family, job, hobbies, ministry, etc., are you being a good steward?  What areas can you improve your stewardship to honor God more effectively.

I challenge you to take advantage of Bold Leadership: Biblical Principles for Marketplace Impact as a resource for yourself or share it with someone else.  Take advantage of whatever role God has given you to share Christ through your actions and words.

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Dr. Merlin Switzer
Dr. Merlin Switzer is Managing Partner at Switzer Associates
He helps clients with improving Leadership, Leading Change & Team Development
Email | LinkedIn |  Web |

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Articles of Faith: Faith Heroes in the Marketplace

Bible Burning

Have you ever wondered to what extent leaders are able to integrate their faith in the market today? When you think about news headlines, it seems like Biblical values are under attack from nearly every direction, especially in the marketplace.

Questions of Biblical Proportion

 In 2011, I set out to answer these questions:

  • Have Christian leaders bought into the argument that faith doesn’t belong in the marketplace?
  • Or, are they afraid to let their light shine?
  • Are there faith heroes in the marketplace today; men and women who boldly embrace their faith, living for God, and looking to the God of all wisdom and knowledge to meet the challenges of a challenging, competitive marketplace?

I interviewed nearly 80 leaders across the U.S. 68% of them were small business owners, senior executives, or CEO’s. They ranged in age from 22 to 93.

I asked them questions like these:

‘How do you integrate faith and vocation in the marketplace’

‘How does your faith intersect with strategic thinking?’

I was pleasantly surprised. And in some cases shocked at what I found! These men and women take their faith seriously; it permeates who they are in the marketplace. They absolutely depend on God to navigate marketplace pitfalls.

Turning to God for Help

Take Fred Bills, for example, CEO of Nelson Wood Shims, a leading manufacturer of wood shims. Fred was facing intense competition from China.

Fred turned to God and asked others to pray, including employees.

He engaged employees in strategic thinking and encouraged them to consider any idea.

This is what transpired:

  • One of his employees was hunting and noticed a particular species of tree in abundance.
  • This employee brought some wood back, experimented with it, and found that it made excellent wood shims.
  • Fred learned that the largest forest of this species of tree was within 100 miles.
  • Fred was able to invest in developing facilities to leverage production of shims using this species.

He credits God for leading them to this solution.

Giving it All to God

Four companies particularly impressed me, so I visited them:

Correct Craft in Orlando

Correct Craft produces world-class ski boats. Factory walls were graced with large boat-sized posters with pictures of their boats and the caption ‘We build boats to the glory of God’. My host was the company’s ambassador Ralph Meloon, who is a former CEO and Chairman of the Board.

Ralph said, “We exist to glorify God and we build boats to pay the expenses.”

Hobby Lobby in Oklahoma City

David Green, Founder and CEO of Hobby Lobby, has 500 stores in 42 states. When God put it on his heart to close stores on Sunday, he lost $100 million. Last year, they gave more than half of their company profits to ministries around the world. Inside the corporate lobby is a flat screen TV on the wall that flashes pictures from around the world reflecting the impact the company is having.

Jasco Products in Oklahoma City

Steve Trice, CEO of Jasco Products, offers many opportunities for employees to attend God-centered classes to help with their finances, strengthen their marriages, and help them raise their children.

He also supports them in getting involved in their community in different ways.

Hawaiian Falls Waterparks in Dallas

Wet summers in Dallas caused David Busch, CEO of Hawaiian Falls Waterparks, to go belly up once and to the brink a second time, but God led him through the difficult times. Today, they are building new water parks in Waco, Texas and Las Vegas, Nevada.

These and others may not be heroes as our society defines heroes, but in my mind, they are heroes of the faith.

  • They trust God daily for wisdom and guidance.
  • They walk the talk.
  • And it isn’t always easy.

Inspired to Write

I was so inspired by the many men and women I interviewed. I am confident you will be too. I anticipate publishing a book later this year with their stories entitled, Bold Leadership: Biblical Principles for Marketplace Impact.

The practical tips and stories of these faith heroes will inspire, provide guidance, and encourage you to integrate your faith with who you are as a leader in the marketplace.

My vision is that the marketplace will be transformed as Christians truly integrate their faith with who they are as leaders in the marketplace.

Are you a faith hero in the marketplace? How do you integrate your faith with your role in the marketplace? I would love to hear your thoughts, challenges, and triumphs!

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Never miss an issue of Linked 2 Leadership, subscribe today here
Learn, Grow & Develop Other Leaders

——————–
Dr. Merlin Switzer is Managing Partner at Switzer Associates
He helps clients with improving Leadership, Leading Change & Team Development
Email | LinkedIn |  Web |

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Your Best Single Piece of Leadership Advice

Sage Advice

What is the single most important advice you would offer a person new to leadership?

Big Question

How would you respond to this question:

“If you were assigned to mentor a person new to leadership and could only share one thing with them to help them be most effective, what advice would you give them?”

I have asked this question over the years when teaching a leadership course entitled Upward Leadership. Over the years, I have a recorded the advice offered by scores of course participants. Here are the top six recommendations offered:

  1. Build relationship with your employees
  2. Lead by positive example
  3. Be a good communicator
  4. Be humble and/or open-minded
  5. Be flexible
  6. Be prepared…Do your planning/preparation in advance

I am curious, how does this advice fits with your experience? If I asked the same question to you, what would you say? Those of you who have read The Leadership Challenge will recall that, based on the case studies of more than four hundred reputedly good leaders, the following themes emerged:

  • Challenge the process
  • Inspire a shared vision
  • Enable others to act
  • Model the way
  • Encourage the heart

The advice offered by my course participants got a direct hit with “lead by positive example.” Moreover, being humble was a key finding in Jim Collins’ book, Good to Great, of Level 5 leaders.

Doing the Right Stuff

When one drills down in The Leadership Challenge themes, each of them consists of various competencies or practices.  For example, Modeling the Way, involves setting an example by behaving in ways that are consistent with shared values. The authors recommend various actions, such as taking time to do a personal assessment, writing your personal leadership credo, audit your actions, etc.

Modeling the Way also involves achieving small wins that promote consistent progress and build commitment.

Actions supportive of this commitment include such things as:

  • Making plans and breaking them down into smaller parts
  • Creating pilots to experiment with the process
  • Finding volunteers to make improvements
  • Selling the benefits to others

Given this context, being prepared, being flexible, and being a good communicator support Modeling the Way.

Specific comments by course participants support other Leadership Challenge themes, as well.  The challenge is actually getting people to commit to these practices.

And it is great when they do!

A Good Report

I received this feedback from a Regional Vice-President in the past week:

“I learned a great deal of practical and insightful information about leadership in your class. I attended it twice because I wanted to attend with different teams.  I was tempted to attend a third time with my new team, but instead, I decided that it might be more beneficial if  I meet with them afterward as a follow-up, and to help reinforce/implement action plans.  I am using your method of ‘one-on-one’ meetings to get to know staff at my new location and finding it extremely useful to learn what is important to staff and to build relationships.”

Considering your own advice, that offered by course participants or research from The Leadership Challenge, ask yourself this important question:

“To what extent do I build relationships with my employees…or lead by positive example…or am humble…or challenge the process?”

How did you do?  Better yet, ask your employees for their perspectives. You might be surprised at the feedback.   Effective leaders want to stay relevant. They want to get better. They keep growing. They are open to feedback. Remember, giving good advice is one thing, acting on it is another!

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Dr. Merlin Switzer is Managing Partner at Switzer Associates
He helps clients with improving Leadership, Leading Change & Team Development
Email | LinkedIn |  Web |

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The Three Hardest Words for Leaders to Say

Three Hardest Words

As leaders, we all know the importance of setting a good example.

Posner and Kouzes, in The Leadership Challenge, refer to it as Model the Way. It’s one of the five fundamental practices of exemplary leadership. It obviously makes sense to set a good example.

Why, then, is it hard to admit a mistake?

After all, we want those we work with to accept responsibility for their actions.

Cat Got Your Tongue?

The 3 Hardest Words to Say

I think the three hardest words for a leader to say are, ‘I was wrong.’ I would like to be able to say that I have never made a mistake…that I was never wrong, but you all know I would be lying. The fact is, I have made a number of mistakes as a leader…and I hated when it happened!

Even worse, though, was having to admit ‘I was wrong’…sometimes in front of a group of people with whom I worked.

And yet, I can honestly say that I never walked away with a sense that I lost “market share” as a leader. If anything, I felt the opposite occurred. People seemed to respect the fact that I would admit that I made a mistake. Of course, the admission was usually accompanied by an apology or sharing steps I would take to fix my blunder.

But depending on the mistake, this may not be enough.

Difficult Getting Real

We have all heard comments like; ‘to err is human.’ If we as leaders believe this, then why is it so difficult for us to be real…to admit we made a mistake? Too often, leaders try to ignore a mistake…pretending it didn’t occur, cover it up, or blame someone else. And yes, if I am honest with myself, I’m sure that somewhere along the way I have done these too.

What’s one of the most damaging outcomes of not admitting mistakes or that we were wrong? Loss of trust! Stephen M.R. Covey in his book, The Speed of Trust, quotes a variety of statistics that show the lack of trust. Among them are the following:

  • 51% of employees have trust and confidence in senior management.
  • 36% of employees believe their leaders act with honesty and integrity.

Covey goes on to say that trust is the ‘key leadership competency of the new global economy.’

According to Leigh Branham in The 7 Hidden Reasons People Leave, one of the top seven reasons voluntarily separate from an organization is loss of trust and confidence in senior leaders. So, not only may we lose the trust of others, but we may lose good employees.

Moving On

What do we do when we make a mistake? Dennis and Michelle Reina in their book Trust and Betrayal in the Workplace, suggest there are a number of actions we can take and among them are ‘admit mistakes.’

When we admit mistakes, we and others can learn from those mistakes, as well as open the door to restore trust.

How about you? How do you handle mistakes? Do you tend to admit them or take some other option? What suggestions can you offer to help other leaders to be honest enough to admit their mistakes?  What are other impacts for failing to say, ‘I was wrong?’ What do you think are the three hardest words for leaders to say?

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Dr. Merlin Switzer is Managing Partner at Switzer Associates
He helps clients with improving Leadership, Leading Change & Team Development
Email | LinkedIn |  Web |

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