In my twenty-seven years of various vocational leadership positions, I have seen an inordinate amount of faith-centered leaders with real tension between caring culture and consistent production. And employee accountability often suffers because of it. I wholeheartedly believe this is due to a poorly translated theological expression that must be corrected.
Business leaders with a principle-centered approach intend to create a caring culture at its core. It includes strong elements of self-sacrifice for the sake of the team. On the surface, those intentions are honorable. I mean, who wouldn’t want to work for a boss that actually cares and would sacrifice salary, time, etc., for your sake and the overall benefit of the company? Things get sideways, however, when employees take advantage or unknowingly miss improvement opportunities because the leader is taking up the slack in the name of a “caring culture.” Over time, those become inefficiencies that permeate organizations creating tension, turnover, bitterness, and loss of production.
A better analysis of Jesus’ leadership methodology helps a leader sort out the proper balance. John Maxwell, an international leadership titan, requires a leader to move with an authentic caring purpose (which is good), as described in his book, The Five Levels of Leadership. The leader gets stuck at Level 2 because the motivation is misguided. According to Maxwell, a growing leader must be a successful producer as well, which he defines as the primary trait of Level 3. Jesus modeled this dynamic. He showed compassion, love, caring, and ultimately self-sacrifice, but he was not sacrificing results for caring sake. Jesus developed an organizational culture of consistent, successful outcomes by holding his followers accountable, challenging them on process and purpose, and working with them to refine their work toward the vision.
Bob Lewis, another successful leadership coach, has seen this many times as well. “I frequently encounter this behavior. The tendency of faith-based leaders to avoid addressing conflict or delivering unfavorable feedback often results from a conscious or subconscious belief that it is somehow not loving or Christ-like and might hurt the person’s feelings. In reality, Jesus consistently told people the truth in love, out of His sincere care, concern, and love for them and what was in their best interests. As a result of this tough-love approach, people learn, grow, and become all that God designed them to be.”
I agree with Bob, but I worry that many faith-based leaders are not aware of the theological nuance involved and the proper path that takes them from being a loving culture creator to one that also produces regular wins. In our advisory to board members looking for the right CEO, we regularly use the analogy of offering broccoli, versus ice cream, to a child. More often than not, feeding them broccoli is the more loving thing to do because it makes them healthy in the long run.
If we claim to have a principle-centered leadership approach when guiding our companies, maybe we should continue to dive deeper into the source of our leadership style. Caring without accountability is not in the formula. Hiding behind it is bad theology and destructive for your organization. If you really care about your employees, then hold them to task and tell them the truth. They deserve it.
FaithSearch Corporate works with our clients to identify the ability to create caring cultures leading to proven production as part of the in-depth assessment, sourcing, and consulting process. Increasingly, leaders need to be aligned with the future of the organization accurately. For more information about the FaithSearch Corporate executive search process, contact me directly at email@example.com or visit our website at faithsearchpartners.com.
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