One of the first things I tell people when I’m beginning to mentor them is that my leadership style, my personality, and the way I interact with people is a direct outcome of my faith. I understand that religion and politics are often considered taboo topics in the workplace, but I don’t think it’s possible to separate your leadership style from what you believe. Attempting to do so, in my opinion, would be disingenuous. Your faith (e.g. what you believe) is the cornerstone of your leadership style.
In today’s blog post, I want to share with you how your faith impacts your work ethic, attitude, and your relationships. All three are critical components of inspiring leadership.
Your Faith Impacts Your Work Ethic
I startled awake, or at least that’s how it felt as I turned around to see my boss behind me. My wife and I had just had our first child, and sleep was scarce. My cubicle was in the middle of the building with no natural light, and the lighting was dim, because that’s how we liked it.
On this particular mid-afternoon, I must not have had my post-lunch cup of coffee for the day. I couldn’t tell you if I was asleep for 10 minutes, or for 2; or if it was just that 2 seconds between consciousness and sleep where my head was drooping but not quite down for the count.
In my mind I thought I heard footsteps, and I could feel the eyes of my boss on the back of my head. So I startled a bit and looked back. He was just walking through and saying “hi”. He didn’t say a word, just smiled and continued to wherever it was that he was going.
To this day I don’t know if he stood and watched me snore for a minute or two, or was none-the-wiser. That week I worked an extra hour just to make up for it. It was stealing. And nothing puts me to bed at night quite like a clean conscious.
I Believe the Bible
You have never seen gravity, but you have faith it exists because you’ve seen its impact on other people. Your belief that gravity is something, impacts the way you act when you are, for example, on the edge of a cliff.
As a Christian, my faith comes straight from the Bible. Just like gravity, I’ve seen how the Bible has impacted my own life and the lives of others. Accordingly, I believe the Bible is 100% accurate, that it was written so that we might know who God is, and so that we can have a relationship with Him.
There is so much more I could say about the Bible. There is no other book in the world with the same credentials, and I’ve found it personally relevant and life-changing even 2,000 years after the last book was written.
But back to my story. Why is stealing a little bit of time not okay? Because the Bible says stealing is wrong. The Bible doesn’t put a limit on how much or how little is sufficient to be called stealing. It just says not to do it. What would your response to the same situation be? Whatever your response, I guarantee it’s based on what you believe.
Your beliefs will impact whether or not you talk negatively about someone . Beliefs impact whether you show up on time or come in late. They will impact whether your lunch hour is actually an hour and 15 minutes or an hour. Your beliefs will impact how you talk about your boss, and whether or not you are happy about your pay.
The way you spend your spare moments at work, your diligence to learn without being told, and your ability to stay on task when no one is watching are all examples of how your beliefs impact your work ethic. It all boils down to this simple truth: what you believe impacts how you approach work. That’s true of Atheists, Baptists, Catholics, Muslims, and Hindu alike.
Your Faith Impacts Your Attitude
I was talking to someone at work a couple of years ago, and they said something along the lines of “I’ve never seen Josh get mad. What does that look like?”. Two years later, and I think that would still be said about me – at least at work. Now, to be clear, I do get mad. I just choose not to show that emotion at work. Ephesians 4:26 says to be angry and sin not.
Leaders that yell in anger, who berate and belittle their team members and co-workers, are poor leaders at best. It looks childish, it’s unkind and abusive, and at the end of it all, everyone in the room thinks less of you and more of the person you were trying to belittle. Don’t do it.
If you’ve done it in the past, go apologize for being a shmuck. If you had the guts to shame someone publicly, have the guts to apologize publicly. Alright, let me put my soap-box back.
So what is your attitude like? Do you approach problems with curiosity or blame? When something is not going well, do you act the victim and hope it solves itself or do you start working on finding a solution? If you have a hard time keeping a positive attitude, or find yourself reacting in fear to things like COVID19, consider your faith. By the way, if you struggle with fear or anxiety, take a look at my blog post on how to be a fearless leader. So what is it that you believe that is causing the attitude you have today?
Your Faith Impacts Your Relationships
How you treat others reveals your leadership style, and like the points mentioned above, it too is based on what you believe. For example, if you make a point to talk to someone just because they have a higher title, there is a good chance you are having a conversation for a purely selfish motive. That’s putting the wrong person first.
If you know anything about the Bible, you’ve probably heard John 3:16 and know at least one of the 10 commandments. Did you know the 10 commandments are summed up into two, though, in Mark 12? Verses 29-31 basically say we are commanded first to love God, and second, to love our neighbor as ourselves.
The Bible even says we should love our enemies. I’ll let you go find that one. That doesn’t mean we should ignore what they can and will do (e.g. workplace politics). We should be savvy, and purposeful about how we engage with others who are clearly against us. But we can do it from a position of love and not hate, a position of mercy and not revenge.
A great way to think about your relationships at work is by considering your reputation. Proverbs 22:1 says that a good name is better than riches. You have a reputation at work. You may have your own idea about what that reputation is, but when was the last time you asked someone? While on one hand it shouldn’t really matter to you what other people think about you, on the other hand, it absolutely does.
Your reputation impacts your influence, it impacts your ability to build and maintain relationships, and it impacts who you represent including your department, your upline, your family, and your faith. Your reputation should be more important to you as a leader than a promotion, than a pay-raise, and even more important than your job itself.
The one thing that always helps me interact with other people, no matter what they think of me, or what message I’m bringing them, is to begin each conversation by prioritizing the other person above myself. Another word for prioritization is “love”. If I have to give hard feedback to a team member, thinking about how to do that in love is a great first step to figuring out how to approach the conversation.
If someone is talking bad about you, by the way that happens to everyone, focus first on how you can prioritize that person above your own needs. People who blame you, or throw you “under the bus” are doing it from a place of weakness and stress. Whenever that happens, always consider how bad their day/life/year is going. When you put it in that perspective, it makes it much easier to be kind when others aren’t.
So What Do You Believe?
I’ve shared a lot about how my beliefs impact my work ethic, my attitude, and my relationships. But what do you believe? I’m not asking you what your religion is. Religion is nothing more than rules and instructions about how to please or appease a god.
What do you believe about life, death, people, lying, love, hatred, enemies, promotions, heaven, giving, money, and hell? This list goes on. Once you’ve figured these out, you’ll be much better prepared to hone your leadership style. If you want to be an inspiring leader, you have to look long and hard at the things you believe.
Your beliefs will make you a morally good leader or a morally bad leader. They will be the differentiating factor in whether people follow you because they love you or because they fear you. I like what the great Michael Scott said about whether he wanted people to fear him or love him.
That’s a bit creepy, but… is it?
Strong beliefs produce inspiring leadership. Figure out what you believe, then use your faith to inspire others.