For while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.
– 1 TIMOTHY 4:8
Leaders are constantly faced with decisions that will likely make some people happy and, at the same time, upset others. Without a reliable framework from which to make decisions, we are likely to bend to the pressure of popular opinion and choose unwisely. Since we are incapable of making everyone happy all the time, our motivation for our choices becomes the most crucial aspect of our leadership.
The most accurate predictor of future behavior is past actions. This does not mean that people are incapable of change. Rather, it is an acknowledgement that people will most often do what they have practiced consistently. This makes our daily choices significant as they shape our most likely response when faced with big decisions that have momentous potential consequences.
Practice doesn’t make perfect; it just ingrains whatever you are practicing. So, what should leaders practice if they desire to create a culture that values every individual equally? What is the framework that creates a solid foundation that will support us when the pressure is on?
Let’s start with RESPECT. Respect is understanding that someone is important and should be treated in an appropriate way. Leaders who value others intrinsically and equally show respect in little ways every day. Being on time (or better, early) to meetings. Putting down your cell phone or closing your laptop while someone is talking to you. Doing what you say you will do, without excuse.
Next, we might work on TRUSTWORTHINESS. Trustworthiness is about dependability and reliability. Think about the people in your life that you trust. Why do you trust them? Most likely, it is because they have consistently demonstrated they have your back. They come through even when it costs them. They are honest with you about themselves and about you.
Then there is FAIRNESS. I used to tell my kids, “The fair is in September,” but the fairness we’re talking about here is a lack of favoritism toward one side or another. We are not all the same, but we are all equal. This should impact how we structure our policies and how we interact within our communities.
Finally, we should include caring or EMPATHY. Empathy is being aware of, and sensitive to, the feelings, thoughts, and experiences of others. Empathy impacts the choices we make as well as the way we communicate those choices. It is rather difficult to care about another person if you are unable or unwilling to understand what life feels like for them and the way your behaviors impact them.
You may notice that the four qualities listed are matters of character, not just behavior. Character is not something we are born with; it is something we learn and practice. Football players spend a significant amount of their practice time repeating basic actions. It is the almost effortless competence in these building blocks that allows them to complete complex plays in a game. Likewise, we practice and develop character in small everyday interactions. With this foundation in place, we find ourselves prepared to make larger and more complex decisions using the character we are accustomed to.
As leaders, the decisions we make impact a lot of people. Unfortunately, they are also visible to a lot of people, many of whom have very little real understanding of what is going on.
Think and pray
If we make decisions based on trying to satisfy a hunger to be popular, we will find ourselves stuffed at times and starving at others. There is, however, a table spread with food that is truly satisfying and nourishing to our soul. That table is found when we have practiced consistent character and make the best decisions we can with respect, trustworthiness, fairness, and care – which is, of course, the way any follower of Christ should live.
Father, You have been so gracious to me, showing patience, love and acceptance that I don’t deserve and could never earn. Help me today to treat others the way You have treated me. Amen.
© 2021. Adapted and reprinted with permission. Thomas Hill III is CEO of Kimray, Inc. in Oklahoma City. He is the author of Recovering Leadership: Musings of an Addict Leader and posts regularly on his blog www.recoveringleadership.com.