ETHICS & The ethical character of a church leader: What is “ethical character” and how should a turnaround leader use it?

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., Church Revitalizer Magazine, 4/26/18.

What exactly makes a decision ethical? 

It is best to think of ethical decisions as those that honor the “the spirit behind the law.” 

Definition: “Ethics” means operating in the “spirit behind the law” and not just the letter of the law.  Example:  Something can be lawful (a loophole for instance) but not ethical and thus does not honor the “spirit” behind the law. 

The “character” of an ethical leader requires a 3-pronged approach, as popularized by former president of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship and ethics professor Alexander Hill (“Just Business: Christian Ethics for the Marketplace [Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1997].)

Ethical leaders have a “character that embraces” three principles…

1. Right actions

2. Just actions 

3. Acting in love

Let’s briefly explore each.

RIGHT ACTIONS are actions in harmony with God’s Word, sometimes described as “holiness” or Biblical godliness. Here are two examples:

a. Being physically and emotionally separate from impure or or ungodly principles, practices and actions. Peter reminds us that as Christians we are to “be Holy without blemish” 2 Peter 3:11-12. EXAMPLE: the ethical leader spends time in Bible study, theology and history to be able to distinguish between actions that go against Christ and His Word.

b. Right actions are rooted in humbly serving others as exemplified in the servant leadership of Jesus. EXAMPLE: “If someone claims, “I know him well!” but doesn’t keep his commandments, he’s obviously a liar. His life doesn’t match his words. But the one who keeps God’s word is the person in whom we see God’s mature love. This is the only way to be sure we’re in God. Anyone who claims to be intimate with God ought to live the same kind of life Jesus lived.” 1 John 2: 4-6.

JUST ACTIONS characterize leaders who practice equal procedures, fair reward for merit, and protection of rights.

a. Equal procedures mean that regardless of where the person is in the company hierarchy or their cultural background, they are treated equally. EXAMPLE: The apostle Paul living in a highly bigoted and hierarchical culture said that in Christ said that “there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ” Galatians 3:28. Ponder for a second how revolutionary this was in Paul’s day. Embracing equal procedures means treating people the same regardless of gender, ethnicity and/or socioeconomic culture.

b. Fair reward means that a person is paid fairly based upon their performance (merit) when balanced with what the congregation can afford. EXAMPLE: Exorbitant salaries for church leaders cannot be justified by saying that: “We’ve always paid this much for that position.” Sometimes in church turnarounds, the pastoral salary was set at a time when the chruch could afford a larger salary. Fair reward means negotiating salaries that are equally fair to the organization and the individual. 

c. Probably the most important aspect is to protect the inalienable rights that God has bestowed upon his creation, including bodily safety, freedom from harassment.

ACTING IN LOVE is what sets apart the character of a Christian, because it means our ethical framework demonstrates supernatural love. Here are two areas where Christians often fail in their ethical behavior.

a. Shouldering others pain: This means when one person in the organization suffers, we all suffer and therefore everyone does something to address their pain. Luke tells us in Acts 2:42-45 that in reaction to Peter’s Pentecost sermon, “They sold whatever they owned and pooled their resources so that each person’s need was met.” EXAMPLE: When a church is undertaking a turnaround, one of the most powerful examples occurs when leaders give up something to help others. A notable secular example occurred when Malden Mills, a textile factory was destroyed by fire. Their CEO refused to lay off his workers. Instead he paid the worker’s salaries out of his own pocket. He told the news media that the workers were, “part of the enterprise, not a cost center to be cut. They’ve been with me for a long time.  We’ve been good to each other, and there’s a deep realization of that.” (Manuel G. Velasquez, Business Ethics: Concepts and Cases, 5th ed. [Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Prentice Hall Publishers, 2003], p. 122-124, 491-92.)

b. Taking action on others behalf: This means working and coaching others to help them improve rather than firing them to find someone else. EXAMPLE: In many churches in need of revitalization, there is often an unhealthy and historical “Burn and Churn” style of leadership. “Burn and Churn” means that leaders “burnout” the volunteers/staff and then  leaders recruit more volunteers/staff to replace them, creating an endless “churning” cycle of: recruitment-leavings-recruitment-leavings-recruitment-leavings-etc. However, “taking actions on others behalf” means noticing when people are struggling and coaching them to improve, rather than dismissing them. By taking more time to mentor volunteers/staff rather than firing them, builds upon the strengths of the volunteers’ experience, the volunteers network of friends and the volunteer’s feelings of self worth.

Below is an example case study. Can you spot what could have been done differently utilizing “right actions, just actions and acting in love?”

Sarah doesn’t know very much about her new job as the Director of Discipleship. The previous director suddenly left because of burn out. And though he had no more prior experience than Sarah, the church paid him more because he was a man and was perceived to be the sole provider for his family.

A little more than year into the job Sarah felt she was starting to understand her responsibilities. For most of that year Sarah was on the verge of burning out because she felt the mission of the church was so important that she often worked 60 to 70 hour weeks taking time away from her two young children. 

Her boss the administrative pastor came in to her office and explained to her that she wasn’t developing into what the church needed. Sarah felt blindsided, because the administrator had not worked with her to help her learn her job or improve on doing it better.

The end result was that in this church turnaround situation Sarah was fired with little consideration for her financial and emotional fallout. In the 18 months she had developed many friends among the staff and they empathized with Sarah, perceiving the leaders’ actions to have had failed to exemplify Christlike actions. The end result was that the church went into further decline. Instead of a turnaround church … the lack of ethical character in the leader resulted in at downward church.

Download the article here: ARTICLE ©Whitesel – Ethical Character of Planter (Church Revitalizer) and here: https://issuu.com/renovate-conference/docs/2018_april_may_cr_magazine_final_adb6f267542cdb

ETHICS & Billy Graham’s Modesto Manifesto covered more than we realize…

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: My friend and colleague Nelson Searcy has written a good article explaining that Billy Graham’s Modest Manifesto (ethical guidelines for their ministry) is much more than people realize. Take a look at this brief excerpt of Nelson’s insightful article.

“Billy Graham’s secrets to a scandal-free ministry“ by Nelson Searcy, Renegade Pastors Network, 3/27/18.

…For 80 years of ministry, Billy Graham stayed scandal-free.

… So in November 1948, Graham called the members of his evangelistic team to his hotel room during a crusade campaign in Modesto, California. “God has brought us to this point,” he said. “Maybe he is preparing us for something that we don’t know.”

He and his team identified the issues that had been stumbling blocks to evangelists — and ways to prevent them from happening again.

What emerged was a declaration of Biblical integrity that all church leaders can follow. The “Modesto Manifesto” was the pact that would set the standard for Billy Graham’s scandal-free ministry.

The Manifesto included four key principles to guard against:

– Financial Abuse
– Sexual Immorality
– Pride (specifically with relationship to other local churches)
– Lying and Deceit (specifically regarding publicity and reporting of attendance numbers)

No formal document was ever created . . . until now.

I know the impact this Manifesto of integrity can have on your ministry as well. It has made such an impact in my own life and ministry. So I decided to painstakingly research and assemble the four principles into a framable presentation — one that would be easy to follow and keep as a guide…

(To download Nelson’s analysis of the manifesto you must be a member of his Renegade Pastors Network. I am a member and would encourage you to check it out: https://renegadepastors.com )

LEADERSHIP & Inspiring Presidential Quotes on Leadership for #PresidentsDay

by Marissa Levin, the founder and CEO of “Successful Culture,” and author of “Built to Scale: How Top Companies Create Breakthrough Growth Through Exceptional Advisory Boards,” Inc. Magazine, 3/19/18.

On Mindset:

“If you see ten troubles coming down the road, you can be sure that nine will run into the ditch before they reach you.” ~Calvin Coolidge

“Pessimism never won any battle.” ~Dwight D. Eisenhower

“Efforts and courage are not enough without purpose and direction.” ~John F. Kennedy

“What counts is not necessarily the size of the dog in the fight; it’s the size of the fight in the dog.” ~Dwight D. Eisenhower

“Always bear in mind that your own resolution to succeed is more important than any other one thing.” ~Abraham Lincoln

On Community & Circles of Influence:

“Associate yourself with men of good quality if you esteem your own reputation; for ’tis better to be alone than in bad company.” ~George Washington

“Never waste a minute thinking about people you don’t like.” ~Dwight D. Eisenhower

“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more, and become more, then you are a leader.” ~John Quincy Adams

On Persistence & Resilience:

“Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.” ~Calvin Coolidge

“In every battle there comes a time when both sides consider themselves beaten, then he who continues the attack wins.” ~General Ulysses S. Grant

“In the time of darkest defeat, victory may be nearest.” ~William McKinley…

“The harder the conflict, the greater the triumph.” ~George Washington

On Ethics & Taking a Stand:

“An honorable defeat is better than a dishonorable victory;” ~Millard Fillmore…

“Unswerving loyalty to duty, constant devotion to truth, and a clear conscience will overcome every discouragement and surely lead the way to usefulness and high achievement.” ~Grover Cleveland

“Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power” ~Abraham Lincoln

“Life is never easy. There is work to be done and obligations to be met – obligations to truth, to justice, and to liberty.” ~John F. Kennedy

Read more at … https://www.inc.com/marissa-levin/22-presidential-quotes-on-most-important-aspects-of-great-leadership.html

ETHICS & Simon Sinek at TEDxPuget Sound on “How great leaders inspire action”

Commentary by Prof. B.: In my introductory course on leadership we discuss the importance and impact of ethical behavior in leaders.  We look at Alexander Hill’s three aspects of ethics: right action, just action and acting in love.  Hill bases these elements on a biblical and theological foundation.  Simon Sinek, author and futurist, describes these same three aspects of ethics in his TEDx talk on what inspires action in followers.

Read and watch more at … https://www.ted.com/talks/simon_sinek_how_great_leaders_inspire_action and https://startwithwhy.com/

Download the rest of the chapter “Becoming a Leader After God’s Own Heart” by Bob Whitesel in The Church Leader’s MBA: What Business School Instructors Wish Pastors Knew About Management, eds. Mark Smith and David Wright here > Ethics_Whitesel_10.09.

ETHICS & Becoming a Leader After God’s Own Heart #ChurchLeadersMBA

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., 2012 (excerpted with permission from The Church Leader’s MBA: What Business School Instructors Wish Pastors Knew About Management, eds. Mark Smith and David Wright, chapter title “Becoming a Leader After God’s Own Heart” by Bob Whitesel).

Today we are having the most lively ethics discussions since ancient Greece more than 2.300 year ago… – Geoffrey P. Lantos, Professor of Business Administration[i]

A Well-intentioned Misappropriation?

“They didn’t train me for this in seminary … the rules about ethical business decisions were never addressed.”

Jim, a pseudonym, was leaving the community food bank for which he had served as director. His career had been shaky from the start, but Jim felt over time he had grown into the position. Just a year before he had told me, “this (job) is where I think I’ll stay until I retire.” Now, only in his mid-40s, Jim was leaving to pursue a career in business. He had been stung by perceived ethical missteps, which eroded his credibility, and eventually eroded his support among the food bank’s board. “They didn’t train me for this in seminary,” complained Jim. “The rules for parsing verbs were explained clear enough. But the rules about ethical business decisions were never addressed.”

The ethical landscape can be a minefield for the Christian leader. Differentiating between what is appropriate and what is illicit can be daunting. Jim had learned the lesson so many church leaders learn the hard way, that high expectations are placed upon church leaders, and ethical missteps, even minor ones can be ruinous.

What was the fiscal blunder to which Jim succumbed? In the midst of trying to keep a floundering food bank afloat, he appropriated money designated specifically for food purchases and used it for office expenses. When the benefactor learned money designated for food stuffs, was now going to buy a copy machine, they demanded their money be returned. Standing upon shaky ground, Jim could not refund the money without jeopardizing the daily operations of the center. The board decided that in order to make ends meet, Jim’s salary would have to fill the gap. And thus, Jim was unceremoniously dismissed.

Jim had rationalized, that if he didn’t apply the designated money to the non-designated needs of the office, then food bank would lose its few already overworked employees. Certainly this is not what the benefactors would want. And thus, he made a judgment call. However, it was an ethical decision that the wealthy benefactors felt crossed the line of propriety. What Jim needed was some sort of system, or procedure for effectively grappling with these ethical questions.

Defining Ethics

Fred David in his seminal book on planning, tenders a common definition of ethics. David writes, “ethics can be defined as principles of conduct within organizations that guide decision making and behavior.”[ii]   This definition is good, even in its brevity, for it reminds us that ethics are not a set of hypothetical decrees, but principles that actively affect daily action and attitude. Ethics are powerful and dynamic ways of thinking that determine our choices, our actions, and our future.

In today’s world, ethics play a central role. The media is full of accounts of moral breaches of ethical behavior. And a continued barrage of ethical issues is being thrust upon businesses and churches by the pervasiveness of sexual harassment, religious prejudice, and ethnic discrimination.

Therefore, due to the dynamic and strategic nature of ethics, let’s begin our investigation with a look at how ethics are practiced in the business world. We begin with the business realm, because is it the venue where most laypeople become acquainted with ethical decision making…

Download the rest of the chapter here > Ethics_Whitesel_10.09.

[i] Geoffrey P. Lantos, “Motivating Moral Behavior,” Journal of Consumer Marketing (Arvada, Colorado: np, 1999), Vol. 16, No. 3, p. 222.

[ii] Fred R. David, Strategic Management: Concepts and Cases, op. cit., p. 20.

ETHICS & Video intro to Praxis 2 assignment for LEAD 600 by Prof. B

Commentary by Prof. B: For my students I often record weekly “introductions” to prepare them for upcoming submissions. This 5-min video explains the Praxis 2 assignment “Developing a Ministry Ethics Policy” for LEAD 600: Missional Leadership.

©️Bob Whitesel 2017, used by permission only.

ETHICS & Harvard Researchers Discover Most People Selfless – Until They Think About It

“Selfish behavior comes from thinking too much, not too little. Rand recently verified this finding in a meta-analysis of 51 similar studies from different research groups.2 “Most people think we are intuitively selfish,” Rand says—based on a survey he conducted—but “our lab experiments show that making people rely more on intuition increases cooperation.”

Selfishness Is Learned: We tend to be cooperative—unless we think too much.

by MATTHEW HUTSON, Nautilus, 6/9/16.

…In 2012 he and two similarly broad-minded Harvard professors, Martin Nowak and Joshua Greene, tackled a question that exercised the likes of Thomas Hobbes and Jean-Jacques Rousseau: Which is our default mode, selfishness or selflessness? Do we all have craven instincts we must restrain by force of will? Or are we basically good, even if we slip up sometimes?

They collected data from 10 experiments, most of them using a standard economics scenario called a public-goods game.1 Groups of four people, either American college students or American adults participating online, were given some money. They were allowed to place some of it into a pool, which was then multiplied and distributed evenly. A participant could maximize his or her income by contributing nothing and just sharing in the gains, but people usually gave something. Despite the temptation to be selfish, most people showed selflessness…

This finding was old news, but Rand and his colleagues wanted to know how much deliberation went into such acts of generosity. So in two of the experiments, subjects were prodded to think intuitively or deliberately; in two others, half of the subjects were forced to make their decision under time pressure and half were not; and in the rest, subjects could go at their own pace and some naturally made their decisions faster than others. If your morning commute is any evidence, people in a hurry would be extra selfish. But the opposite was true: Those who responded quickly gave more. Conversely, when people took their time to deliberate or were encouraged to contemplate their choice, they gave less.

The researchers worked under the assumption that snap judgments reveal our intuitive impulses. Our intuition, apparently, is to cooperate with others. Selfish behavior comes from thinking too much, not too little. Rand recently verified this finding in a meta-analysis of 51 similar studies from different research groups.2 “Most people think we are intuitively selfish,” Rand says—based on a survey he conducted—but “our lab experiments show that making people rely more on intuition increases cooperation.”

Read more at … http://m.nautil.us/issue/37/currents/selfishness-is-learned