God’s management exemplars

Posted by Travis Threats on

People who consult and write books in business governance are considered management gurus. They demand high compensation for talks and workshops, get high royalties from books. The ones that teach a theory of management seem to get more attention often than those who give practical step by step advice, although there is plenty of work for these experts also. As a department chair at a university, many of my past Provosts and Deans that I have served under have given all the Chairs some book to read about how to be a better chair. Since we are in academia, they tend to be quite “lofty.”

As with most ideas, those that seem so cutting edge, so modern, have their actual roots not in the top universities or think tanks, but the Bible. The Bible has quite a bit of financial advice in it from investing wisely to avoiding debt, but that is for another blog. Of course, if a consultant advertised themselves on giving Biblical advice for business, other than to explicitly Christian organizations, they would find themselves with very little work. After all, as is said often by intellectuals, the Bible was written by backward people with no knowledge of anything practical and certainly not able to inform scientific knowledge and grasps of complex economies in “advanced “societies."

So, while talking about intellectuals, how about a reference discussing the faculty at Harvard, who, as they would happily tell you, are the smartest people who have ever existed!! One so called newer concept is “collaborative management.”

"Collaborative team leadership is a management practice that aims to bring managers, executives, and staff out of silos to work together. In collaborative workplaces, information is shared organically, and everyone takes responsibility for the whole. It sits in contrast to traditional top-down organisational models where a small group of executives control the flow of information"

https://slack.com/blog/collaboration/collaborative-leadership-top-down-team- centric#:~:text=Collaborative%20team%20leadership%20is%20a,takes%20responsibility%20for %20the%20whole.

"Collaborative management can be defined as a collection of various management techniques that enlighten a sense of unity and teamwork among managers, supervisors, and the employees within a business organization. It can be broadly seen as the act of working together as a team to accomplish a common goal within a given timeframe." https://www.tutorialspoint.com/collaborative_management/collaborative_management_intro duction.htm

Other similar concepts and phrases are “collective management”, “joint decision making” and “synergistic teamwork strategies” It turns out that working with all people in an organization, recognizing their unique strengths, and encouraging a diversity of employees is a good thing. Using these approaches leads to better decisions that make an organization more profitable, more productive, and it also increases employee satisfaction and dedication to the organization. Groups are powerful when focused on a goal, more so than dominant bosses giving orders to their subservient underlings. Top-down management can indeed get you a certain level of success, but not the ultimate successes. Now, this does not negate the need for visionary leadership, but there is a difference between coming up with a great strategy and executing it, especially ambitious goals that will require many people to achieve.

It is interesting, as in one of the business quotes in this blog, how often the term “growing organically” is in vogue in business. Recognizing, perhaps unwittingly, that God’s design should be copied for success.

Now that we have dispensed with human wisdom, let us turn to the great profound, too often mistakenly considered “too simplistic” truisms of the Bible. These were not written by top academics or that professional class of consultants, both the province of the human viewpoint.

And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching. (Hebrews 10: 24-25 NIV)

From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work. (Ephesians 4: 16 NIV)

Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brothers dwell together in unity! (Psalms 133:1 ESV)

Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken. (Ecclesiastes 4: 9-12 NIV)

As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another. (Proverbs 27:17 ESV)

Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many. Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact, God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it. (1 Corinthians 12: 14-22 NIV)

In the above Bible quotes, there is a leader- God. However, the Bible is about how we best function here on earth. It is practicing mutual respect, recognizing of each other’s skills, listening intently to each other, having a strong enough relationship to take constructive criticism, not being jealous about who is the most important, working together for a common cause, willing to collectively take risks and not be overly judgmental when any or all your experience failure. The Bible also instructs us to listen and respect all and not just to those in the group considered the “most important, “most powerful”, “most knowledgeable”. These are the skills for any successful organization, be it a business, a government agency, a charity, or a church governance structure.

There is one aspect in the Bible that is missing from these collaborative strategies, and that is love. Probably because organizations think it is unrealistic that their employees or members love each other, they are just trying to keep them from disliking or resenting each other so much that there is not a successful execution of the plan. It is a collaborative plan on paper, and they think if they “manage” it correctly that it will come together. If there are enough meetings where everyone’s opinions are sincerely sought out, then it will happen. If they give enough workshops on diversity and sensitivity to differences among each other, that will improve. If they give generous bonuses for collaborative work, it will thrive. If they provide lavish praise for all members of the company for their contribution to the whole, then this collaboration will flourish and produce, in the case of a business, profitable results. All the above WILL improve a company or organization’s functioning. They are all good ideas. 


However, they do not by themselves produce the results that a God focused members can produce, where the highest ideas captured by the above quotes are embraced by the people involved. Even among those who consider themselves devout Christians, look at the rancor that can occur on among the church’s deacons or ministerial staff, the parish council, the church board of trustees, the church choir, or even the membership at large. Yes, it is good to have healthy debate, but if all focused on the same basic principles they can be worked out for the greater good of the organization. This is what God wants for us, to work together on projects big and small, in harmony, because that will produce the best results for us all. Together, we become stronger in God and thus stronger in the success of our goals, especially in times of stress, disappointment, and setbacks.

Does this negate competition? No, the Biblical quote above about people sharpening each other like iron applies to organizations also. A sports team becomes better by playing against an equally talented or better team. Each is working their best, with love and dedication within the team. But the team gets better by playing a team with the same ethos and work ethic. Now, both teams are at their best. Both have learned something from playing the other. But note with love, there is competition but never hatred of your “opponent” but respect. In the case of the sports team, you do not wish the other team’s star player to be injured to increase your chances of winning. A group can often learn more from “losing” than “winning.” However, these lessons from not being victorious do not happen if the group turns against each other, practices finger pointing and blame. They keep their love for each other through success and failure.

Ironically in contrast with today’s society’s thinking, doing best for the collective whole produces the best results for the individual members.

So where to find such perfect harmony and perfect communication to achieve mutually beneficial goals? You must leave humans and look at God’s design without dissenters, those in perfect obedience, those not “smart” enough to rebel, those who show us the way to look beyond our own zero/sum thoughts of each other that one can only thrive if another suffers or is persecuted. To work together to achieve what none of us can do by ourselves. To interact selfishly, knowing that that is the wisest route. To not worry about who is “doing more” who is “more important”. Since you are reading this blog, you already know my thoughts about examples for us to follow, admire, and marvel, which is God’s handiwork, nature.

For the second time this month, I give you a video from the John 10:10 project at https://thejohn1010project.com/.  showing that “networking” and “connectivity” – considered cutting edge- was created long before we humans walked the planet. It is entitled the “Wood Wide Web.”


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