Harvard and The Holy Word
Harvard and The Holy Word
Time Tested Leadership Principles
In March of 2016, The Harvard Business Review published a paper by Sunni Giles, an organizational scientist and leadership development consultant. In the article, Giles highlighted results from a survey of 195 leaders on the topic of leadership competencies. The article, “The Most Important Leadership Competencies, According to Leaders Around the World”, highlighted what a group of leaders felt were important skills for future leaders to have to be successful. As I read the article, I was curious as to how many of these competencies could be found in the Bible. For those who consider the Bible the greatest leadership book ever written (I am in that camp), then it probably won’t surprise you that ten out of ten of the competencies are mentioned in the pages of God’s Word. Who would have thought that the leading experts on leadership would publish an article that affirmed what God’s Word already revealed centuries ago?
Over the course of the next several blog posts, we are going to look at the competencies mentioned in the Harvard article, examine what the Bible says about each one, and finally, explore how a God-honoring leader can live in light of these principles. Recognizing the Bible as a powerful leadership resource is critical as every leader has limited amounts of time they can spend reading. The truth is that many well-intentioned people spend more time reading the latest and greatest leadership books being published while the Bible collects dust on the bookshelf. I should know, because I was one of those people.
Shortly after I took my first job as a salesman for a manufacturing company, I realized the powerful connection between my results and my personal earnings. It was energizing to see my effort rewarded through extra commission and monthly bonuses. I quickly became obsessed with finding ways to improve my results. I listened to cassette tapes of Tony Robbins and read every sales book I could get my hands on. Expanding my thinking and feeding myself with the knowledge of the world’s leading experts became a daily pursuit. I also realized that I am not alone. Over the years I have connected with many people who followed a similar path. Their conversations center on the latest book that is capturing the attention of would be top performers or the most recent YouTube posting from a well-known thought leader. Yet, despite the enormous access to solid expertise, the field of leadership still struggles to find competent leaders who are building sustainable, high performing teams. I want to make the case that the Bible can and should serve as the first and most frequently referenced resource for anyone striving to lead well in today’s world.
Harvard’s research lines up with what the Bible teaches when you consider the number one leadership competency for future success is to have “high ethical and moral standards.” These concepts are spoken repeatedly throughout the pages of the Bible. The topic is directly addressed in Proverbs 11:3 when you read, “The integrity of the upright will guide them, but the crookedness of the treacherous will destroy them.” When the apostle Paul wrote his letter to Titus, he includes the charge to, “in all things show yourself to be an example of good deeds, with purity in doctrine, dignified” (Titus 2:7). The phrase “purity of doctrine” is integrity. Biblically speaking the word integrity means a sincerity of heart or a truthfulness. John Macarthur, the pastor-teacher of Grace Community Church and a prolific writer and speaker defines integrity as the quality of being undivided or being true to God’s standard. Both Harvard and God’s Word agree that being undivided and anchored in what is right is critical to lead in a world filled with examples of compromise and flexible boundaries.
How clear are you on your values and understanding of what is right? Have you ever been tempted to flex what you believe for the sake of short term gain? If I had been counting the number of times my personal integrity was tested over the years, I am sure I would have lost count a long time ago. Whether it was trying to decide if a meal out with my team was a legitimate expense, or a statement I was making about a client opportunity was exaggerated a bit, integrity can constantly be pressed. Thankfully, God’s Word provides a profound truth in the book of Colossians for how we can guard ourselves from compromise. In Colossians 3:23-24 the apostle Paul writes; “Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve.”
Adopting the mindset that each of us works directly for the Lord and knowing that He has all knowledge should compel every leader to commit to a Godly standard of integrity. The upside of living in light of this truth is that the Lord has a reward for us! Just as the writer of Proverbs pointed out in chapter 11, verse 3, integrity and high moral standards will guide you. People are desperate to find leaders who are willing to stand up for what is right and end the compromise of moral standards that seems to be prevalent in our culture today. If Harvard and God’s holy Word can agree on the importance of this leadership competency then we should each consider how to live in light of this truth!