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Sociologists attempt the definition of values in terms of cultural or societal norms, mores, and folkways. Philosophers explain values in terms natural discovery, the natural human instinct to know, carried forward from ancient Greece and writings of Plato, Aristotle, and Socrates. Judeo/Christian value definitions come from Biblical text both Old and New Testaments. This paper attempts an exploration of values at their genesis to find similarities leaders can use in any situation.
Leaders express themselves in terms of value. There is a value on good, also a value on bad. They express themselves in terms of work ethic, service to the greater good of an organization, doing so with enthusiasm. Businesses and business leaders express the value of being good citizens in the communities where they exist.
Many leaders today have studied modern leadership theory. They know the work W. Edwards Deming, Malcolm Baldrige, Mary Follett, Peter Drucker, and others. Many leaders know Robert Greenleaf’s writings on servant leadership.
Armed with all this knowledge, secure in their ability to lead and transform others into disciples of an organization, why are leaders and their organizations stuck in a climate of political correctness fearing to express themselves in spiritual terms? What makes it okay to express organizational values in secular terms while not seeing a larger picture of Christian Scriptural values at work?
Information age organizations speak of leadership and leaders in much the same way they spoke of managing and managers just a few short years ago. The business world understands that leading requires strategy, a strategy of thinking, a strategy of vision, a strategy of mentoring future leaders, by serving the workforce and teaching.
Organizations and their leaders know how important it is to have workers engaged in the big picture; therefore, leaders spend much of their time communicating a shared vision to people at all levels. Leaders are aware of the importance to pay just wages and offer benefits that administer to the needs of workers. Leaders provide comfort to workers through safe environments.
The Sociological and Christian Value Link
Something new is happening in organizations that were unforeseen just ten years ago. Business is experiencing a spiritual value revival. Michelle Conlin1 writes in Business Week, “Gone is the old taboo against talking about God at work. In it place is a new spirituality, evident in the prayer groups at (leading companies across the country).” She explains people are working more now than a decade ago and finds no surprise in the social discourse on religion at work. The implication from a sociological perspective is longer working hours are reshaping how workers experience work and the workplace. Workplaces that express themselves as having a family atmosphere find works take that value to heart and the norms of acceptable behavior or acceptable discussion topics are changing. Statistically, she claims 95 percent of Americans believe in God and 48 percent discuss religion in the workplace. She relates that workers feel more secure at work and less likely to compromise values when they feel a spiritual connection. She cites a Marshall School of Business professor as saying, “Spirituality could be the ultimate competitive advantage.” What are she and this business school professor saying? Is this evidence of value shifting in post-modernism to old spiritual roots?
The Philosophical and Christian Link
Edward W. Younkins2 cites the Christian thinker Thomas Aquinas who lived in the thirteenth century, as being a “sincere disciple of the Church.” However, Aquinas accepted the philosophy of Aristotle as no contradiction to theology and having complementary roles “in the quest for truth.” Aquinas saw that divine revelation is a gift from God through biblical text. Natural law is an extension of eternal law and aids in the advance of knowledge. Aquinas’ teaching was that the universe has an orderly hierarchy of eternal law understood by our relationship with God. Natural law comes to humans through unaided reason. Yet, as humans have free will, they have a choice to obey natural law. He saw that human law is a moral validation of natural law. Aquinas saw that philosophy is a form of natural theology starting with man and ending with God. However, Aquinas reversed this saying that God is the first cause of the universe and “that human acts are praiseworthy only insofar as they promote God’s purpose.”
Values, a Contemporary Definition
Yukl3 states that a value is an ideological theme an organization uses to express its relationship with stakeholders. Joas4 does not provide any relief when he writes that value statements are “extremely difficult to determine and are often essentially contested.”
Within organizations, values are the moral compass setting direction, priorities, providing a sense of right and wrong. Johnson5 defines value in moral terms. He says values are how we judge behavior as appropriate or inappropriate.
The psychologist Gordon Allport, as cited by Johnson, worked in the area of value orientation finding there are six value orientations.
1. Theoretical – truth seeking, objective and rational
2. Economic – production, marketing, economics, wealth building
3. Aesthetic – form and harmony
4. Social – love of others is the highest good, people are ends not means
5. Political – enjoy and exercise power, seek recognition
6. Religious – seek unity through understanding the cosmos as a whole
Allport avoids, either intentionally or unintentionally, reference to a deity or God in defining religion. However, leaders can find secular values having roots in Judeo Christian texts, the Bible.
There is a connection of sociological, philosophical, and Christian thought on values and current writers help carry the exploration forward. Information age people still seek knowledge in ways discovered by Aristotle, Plato, and Socrates. They apply this knowledge to the culture and society in which they live. Finally, they discover that Christian moral values do have a place in society and not just in church.
The Genesis of Contemporary Values
Thus far, there is a connection of social values with Christian values seen in the writing of Conlin1. Younkins2 offers a link between philosophical values with Christian values in his study of Thomas Aquinas. These links help in understanding the genesis of modern values.
The word genesis in ancient Greek means many things; among the meanings are birth, creation, cause, source, and origin. Biblically, Genesis is the beginning, the story of creation. We read in Genesis that God pronounced His creation as good. We read that humans are God’s crowning achievement, “…in His own image” (Genesis 1:27). This helps solidify Aquinas’ view of God centered philosophy.
In Proverbs, 10:2 we read the value of doing right things, “Ill-gotten gain has no lasting value, but right living can save your life.” Additionally, Matthew 16:26, Mark 8:36, and Luke 9:25 admonish us against gaining the world and forfeiting our soul. These passages open leaders’ minds to the value of good corporate citizenship, doing what is right for the organization and the community. Right living and life saving imply a consideration deeply rooted in spiritual belief, that of saving ones soul from damnation.
We also see right living in the business world linked with honesty and trustworthiness. Jesus made this link in Luke 20:21-25 by stating one must give to God what belongs to God while doing the service of public law, paying taxes. Doing right is a value found in 2 Corinthians 8:21, doing right in the presence of God and of men.
The introduction spoke of leaders responsibility to pay just wages, provide benefits, and maintain safe environments. Business leaders do this because law mandates it or it is the accepted norm of business. However, is there deeper component found biblically? The short answer is yes. The longer answer involves reading the letter of Paul to the Romans, specifically chapter 12 versus six to eight. Quoted here are those verses from the New International Version.
6We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. 7If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; 8if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.
Leaders in the secular realm have a hard time arguing these gifts and generally value them within their organization. Offering them an opportunity to connect with a scriptural worldview of their values is insightful and provoking.
Development of a Value
Hans Joas4 and Raymond Boudon6 both relate first stage and second stage beliefs according to Durkheim. In the first stage, we hold beliefs (values) true because it seems everyone is doing it. Recall a mother’s question to a child, “If everyone jumped off a building would you?” This relates to first stage value and belief systems. In the second stage, we actually question a value to discover its real truth. According to Johnson, spiritual development of leaders (second stage of Durkheim) starts as young adults begin determining for themselves the cause and effect of actions related to values. As people mature, so does understanding of relationships of values to everyday life.
However, on deeper reflection, adults in mid-life and beyond discover there are multiple truths that are not contrary. They reach a level of critical thinking and understanding of opposites and paradoxes. They begin to accept other values while remaining true to their own. At this point, mature adults accept a value as collective because it is true rather than as children accepting something as true because it is collective.
The study of values in modern society goes through a progression of time and events. The writings of Paul, the Apostle, told early Christian believers they all have spiritual gifts. God gave some the ability to prophesy; envisioning the future, sharing the vision, communicating change is the ability to predict the future of life or business. Therefore, we see values, often thought of as secular, in spiritual scriptural terms as cited in Romans 12:6-8, also in Luke 11:13 and throughout both testaments.
Paul says be generous in helping others if it is money God gifted. The verse continues to tell leaders to take their role responsibly. Further, valuing people and the skills they bring to the organization, providing workers with wages, benefits, and comfortable safe work environments has a footing in Paul’s writing in Romans.
Strategic thinking and creating a vision for the future reaches into ancient philosophical thinking to modern thinkers. Keeping a view on the horizon helps thinkers discover what is possible, making discovery a natural process. Placing value on these discoveries occur when shared vision becomes internalized by members of an organization.
Genesis is a birth, a creation, and a start. All endeavors have a genesis. All thinking has a genesis. All values have a genesis. Seeking truth at its genesis is a process of belief in society, philosophy, and religion. The important learning experience is discovering the relation of each to the other through their common truths.
1. Conlin, M. (1999, November 1). Religion in the Workplace: The growing presence of spirituality in Corporate America. Businessweek Online: 1999 Issue. Retrieved online from http://www.businessweek.com/1999/99_44/b3653001.htm.
2. Younkins, E. W. (2006, January 22). Capitalism & Commerce: Thomas Aquinas’ Christian Aristotleianism. Le Quebecois Libre, (163).
3. Yukl, G. (2006). Leadership in Organizations (6th Ed.). Upper Saddle River: Pearson/Prentice Hall.
4. Joas, H. (2000). The Genesis of Values. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
5. Johnson, C. E. (2005). Meeting the Ethical Challenges of Leadership: Casting Light or Shadow (2nd Ed.). Thousand Oaks: Sage.
6. Boudon, R. (2001). The origin of values: essays in the sociology and philosophy of beliefs. New Brunswick: Transaction Publishers.
Author: Waqas Jawed
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