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Timeless Management Advice for the Christian Leader

 

By Adrian Jones, Thomas Petty, William Jones (TNU 2005)

 

Introduction

 

            This article provides basic advice for succeeding in the workplace and uses various management theories and stories from the Christian Bible as a foundation. Although the principles are old, it does not mean that they are out of date.  In fact, these principles are more relevant in the current business environment than they ever have been.

 

The Importance of Leadership       

 

People run wild when they do not accept divine guidance (New Living Translation, Proverbs 29:18). Successful leaders have a vision. Those leaders who do not have a vision are destined to fail. Their followers are also likely to suffer the consequences of poor leadership.  In the words of Jesus, “They are blind guides leading the blind, and if one blind person guides another, they will both fall into a ditch” (New Living Translation, Matthew 15:14). Jesus was directly addressing the spiritual leaders at that time, but this principle is equally applicable in today’s business environment.

 

Paul Hersey, Kenneth H. Blanchard, and Dewey E. Johnson describe leadership in Management of Organizational Behavior: Leading Human Resources as people who can develop and communicate a vision.  Creating a vision for the future is a fundamental part of leading an organization (79). In other words, organizational leaders are responsible for pointing their organizations in the right directions. This is an important job. If leadership fails to define a direction for the organization, the workforce is likely to devote resources to ventures that do not contribute to the success of the organization.

 

Motivating Your People

 

            Inspiring and motivating people are the world’s most difficult jobs. Human needs are hierarchical according to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs theory. Specifically, Maslow proposed that the most basic need that a person has is the need for physiological well-being. That is, people need food, clothing, and shelter. A person’s needs for safety, social fulfillment, and self-esteem needs follow physiological needs. Then there the need to self-actualization, which is “the need to maximize one’s potential” (Hersey, Blanchard, and Johnson 37-38).

 

            Managers help an employee to meet his or her need for food, clothing, and shelter by paying him or her to do a job. Safety needs can also met through employment by money that pays for shelter. A person can fulfill his or her need for social fulfillment in a work setting if a manager can produce and maintain an environment in which teamwork thrives. Additionally, managers may be able to use their positions of influence and authority to help build the self-esteem of their staff members. Finally, managers can help their employees fulfill their needs for self-actualization by helping them develop, learn and mature.

 

Conflict of the Generations

 

            Sounds a bit like a war between different worlds. Well, in a sense, intergenerational conflicts are wars between different worlds. The challenges of intergenerational communication are similar to the ongoing communication difficulties between men and women. People from different age groups see issues from different perspectives. These differences are normal, so we must learn to deal with them and accept and appreciate the differences that exist between people. In fact, according to Hersey, Blanchard, and Johnson, in order to be “effective in the long run, organizations need an open dialogue in which there is a certain amount of conflict, confrontation, and differing points of view to encourage new ideas and patterns of behavior” (160).

 

If you feel that you are facing too much conflict, it may help you to view life as a cycle. Consider the following thoughts. Older workers will make comments about the inexperience of younger workers. You may have heard some of these statements. “She is just a baby.” “He is the same age as my son.” “Does he need a ride home?” Younger workers, on the other hand, often make unproductive comments about older workers. The negative comments that people make may be the result of fear. That is, older workers are often afraid that younger workers who have more energy and will work for lower wages will replace them.  Older workers often realize that they have less energy than they once did. They no longer rely upon their stamina to carry them. Instead, they rely upon their years of experience. Younger workers are usually trying to establish the foundations of their future careers. They are often willing to work long hours for relatively low wages in order to prove themselves. Further, younger workers often feel that people higher in the hierarchy hold them back. This, of course, results in feelings of frustration and animosity.

 

It is helpful to realize that the conflicts that exist between workers from different generations are normal. In fact, they are not necessarily bad in some cases. It should come as no surprise that older workers are usually more experienced than younger workers are. Younger workers need to accept and appreciate this fact. In addition, they need to value and draw from the knowledge of more experienced workers. Similarly, older workers should recognize the value of the energy that younger workers bring to the workforce. Additionally, they need to realize that the health of society and the economy depends upon the entrance of young adults into the workforce.

 

The Bible provides a perfect model for structuring the workforce in a way that takes advantage of diverse age groups. Proverbs 20:29 states, “The glory of the young is their strength; the gray hair of experience is the splendor of the old” (New Living Translation). In other words, young people have the gift of energy, and older people have the blessing of wisdom and experience.

 

A story in Second Chronicles 10 points out the dangers of rejecting this model. In this story, a king named Rehoboam needed to make a decision that was critical to the success of his kingdom. He was a young king who inherited the throne from his father. He also inherited his father’s wise men, who, of course, were old and experienced men. King Rehoboam consulted these old men about a decision that he needed to make. They gave him good advice. Rather than heed the advice of the experienced men, he turned to the young men he grew up with for advice. They offered him very poor advice. Being young and foolish, King Rehoboam accepted the advice of the inexperienced young men. King Rehoboam’s decision caused him to lose power over the majority of the kingdom he would have otherwise ruled.

 

Office Politics: Are they new?

 

One of the most frustrating issues to deal with in the workplace is what many people call “office politics.” The concept of office politics is hardly new. Rather, these problems have always existed in one form or another. The story of Joseph in the book Genesis is one of the most famous cases of “politics gone bad.” Joseph was one of twelve brothers. Joseph’s father favored him over his eleven brothers. Normally, having the favor of the boss is a good thing. In this case, however, it got Joseph in trouble. Joseph’s eleven brothers were jealous of him, so they conspired against him and sold him into slavery. People throughout history have experienced their own versions of Joseph’s story. More than likely, you, too, have experienced something like this. If you have spent much time in the business world, people have conspired against you. People will become jealous of you. People will see you as an obstacle. People will even dislike you for no apparent reason. Expect it and do not let it come as a surprise. Even more importantly, do not let it become an obstacle that hinders your success. Here are some helpful hints for dealing with office politics.

 

            Follow the pattern of David the King of Israel, when people engage in office politics to conspire against you. In King David’s situation, people were pursuing him in order to kill him. Your situation is probably not that serious, but you may relate to King David’s feelings. He said, “They repay me with evil for the good I do” (New Living Translation, Psalms 35:12). “They don’t talk of peace; they plot against innocent people who are minding their own business” (New Living Translation, Psalms 35:20). Rather than reacting defensively to attacks, put your trust in God as King David did. He recorded his response to his situation in Psalms. “The LORD hears his people when they call to him for help” (New Living Translation, Psalms 34:17). “Don’t be impatient for the LORD to act! Travel steadily along his path. He will honor you, giving you the land. You will see the wicked destroyed” (New Living Translation, Psalms 37:34). King David’s advice, in other words, is to ask God for help. King David acknowledges an important fact: unethical people will be prosperous at times. He is quick to note, however, that their prosperity is only temporary. He further notes that people who trust in the Lord will be the ones who truly prosper. “Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you your heart’s desires” (New Living Translation, Psalms 37:4).

 

Conclusion

           

The Christian Bible and management theorists have developed principles that can help you understand and deal effectively with virtually any circumstance. The article provided a few examples of these principles to peak your interest and to encourage you to find more .

 

 

WORKS CITED

 

Hershey, Paul, Kenneth H. Blanchard, and Dewey E. Johnson. Management of Organizational Behavior: Leading Human Resources. Upper Saddle River: Prentice Hall, Inc. 2001.

 

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