Leadership for Good-Ness Sake

Oct 9, 2013

Sharon Spano, PhD discusses how leadership is not always good for our well being & gives three important tips to remember during difficult times! Photo credit: pcstratman via

I was reading a great passage on stewardship this morning, and I came across some language referring to the goodness of organizations.  Here’s an excerpt from that passage:  “Any organization or any system deserves to be called good only to the extent that its activities serve human well being.”  (ESV, 2013).

This premise was particularly striking to me because it aligns with my work on wisdom and leadership in the context of human development.  One of the key findings of my study is that wise leaders have a commitment to doing the “right thing.”   When this finding initially emerged from the data, I remember thinking it was too obvious.  Perhaps even trite.  Of course, I thought to myself, leaders focus on doing the right thing.  Isn’t that what leadership is all about?

The answer is, not always.  In fact, all one has to do is look to the recent slaughter in Syria to know that leadership can sometimes be horrific.  What does it mean, then, to do that which is right?  When leaders come from so many different perspectives, how does one know what the right thing actually is?

If your an executive or middle-management leader struggling with what or how to do the next right thing, here are just a few points worthy of consideration:

1.  Stay Focused on the Vision:  This, of course, assumes that you’ve taken the time to crystalize the vision for the organization and that this vision aligns with some greater purpose.  That vision doesn’t have to be some grand scheme to solve world hunger.  Most business men will tell you they’re in business to make money.  However, if that outcome isn’t somehow linked to something bigger, e.g., creating jobs or contributing to the economy, there’s a good chance that your leadership will get mired in the day-to-day muck of egocentric choices.  Leaders who are clear on their vision for the organization find it far easier to do that which is right and just.  Right action is the cornerstone of wise leadership.

2.  Be Cognizant of Key Stakeholders:  It’s almost impossible to determine the right thing if you’re not taking the perspectives of key stakeholders into consideration.  How will your action impact both internal and external customers?  Internal customers are your employees, and if you want collective buy-in, it’s important to gain their perspective.  After all, your employees are your ambassadors for everything you do.  Doing the right thing includes valuing what they bring to the table as employees.   They, in turn, will do the right thing for your external customers, to include outlying stakeholders in the community.

3.  Consider the Impact on Society:  Some leaders focus on doing that which is right for their clients while others focus more on what’s right for their clients and the overall organization.  These perspectives obviously vary according to the level of leadership and the overall style of the leader.  The wisest leaders, however, seem to focus beyond their clients and the organization to doing that which is right and just for society.  In my experience, this is a much smaller, almost elitist group, in that it requires a much higher level of discernment and commitment to good-ness.  This perspective is challenging because sometimes leaders in this category are required to put the greater good before immediate profitability.  Such wise leadership requires courage, clarity, and the ability to manage all risk factors.

Take some time to examine how you lead for good-ness sake.  How do you or your colleagues determine the next “right thing”?    If you’ll explore this level of clarity, I promise that you’ll enjoy more passion and commitment to the work-at-hand.

Q:  What does a commitment to doing the right thing look like in your work environment? You can leave a comment by clicking here.