Rediscovering Redemption

Chronicling the work of Redemption in the lives of Followers and Leaders. Articles, research and meditations from the writings of Dr. Joseph J. Bucci. Get blog updates by following Joe on Twitter @Re_Redemption

Joseph J. Bucci

Managing People: More Than a Pair of Hands

Bill Pollard was chairman and CEO of ServiceMaster. His personal philosophy – and that of his predecessors – is significantly different than most corporate leaders. He opens the book with a quote from Henry Ford.  Ford once asked, “Why is it that I always get the whole person, when what I really want is a pair of hands?” According to Pollard, most managers today have this philosophy; they have a job they need done but they’re stuck with workers who have families, problems, habits (good and bad) – all of which bring “unnecessary” complexity into the workplace and getting things done (Pollard, 2000).  Companies and managers with this industrial revolution mindset treat workers as “production units” who can be exchanged, replaced, bought and sold as necessary to complete a task.  Pollard argues that “one of the most important factors of the success and growth of [his] business was the "simple truth of recognizing the potential, dignity, and worth of the individual” (Pollard, 2000).  This emphasis on recognizing the dignity of employees, customers and competitors forms the basis on which ServiceMaster builds its business.

 Interestingly, the first objective of ServiceMaster is “To honor God in all we do” (Pollard, 2000).   Pollard recognizes that there are absolutes – Right with a capital “R” and Truth with a capital “T” – and that those absolutes proceed from God.  He does not deny the presence of God in the world, and therefore His presence in the workplace.  While the company is not a church, nor does it have a doctrinal statement, it recognizes that the worth of individuals can be truly found only in acknowledging the fact that people are created in the image of God.  Of the 21 principles of leadership practiced by ServiceMaster several have ties to a redemptive approach to leadership, including the following: (16) When we are wrong or fail, we admit it.  Truth cannot be compromised. We report on what has occurred or is anticipated, not on what will make us look good.  Also (21) We have all been created in God’s image, and the results of our leadership will be measured beyond the workplace.  The story will be told in the changed lives of people (Pollard, 2000).

With work as a place of primary social engagement, Jay Conger (1994) and others provide a forum for the consideration of the workplace as a laboratory for the development of a strong sense of spirituality, with work having a higher purpose than simply keeping us busy and paying the bills. The book launches into an area rarely explored by considering the human spirit and its yearning for knowledge and contribution greater than itself.  Conger is careful to differentiate between religion and spirituality, which to this writer seems more akin to transcendent feeling.  However Conger manages to include a spectrum of writers on the subject of spirituality and its impact on the workplace.  The challenge to leaders is in the recognition and acknowledgement of this dimension of people’s performance, and one of the ways this is accomplished is with a leader pursuing to know truth, and through their own spiritual journey to know themselves.  This is a helpful part of becoming a redemptive leader, for as Miller (2004) writes, truly knowing themselves allows leaders to know the faults of others as if these were their own. Conger (1994) and other writers in the book note that for any leaders to engage in a higher more fulfilling connection to those activities in which we engage daily (called “work”), this leader must individually take a journey within, past their own insecurities through to the gaining or insight into the leader’s own motivation. One section of the book relates more directly to the concept of Redemptive Leadership, and that is a short discussion in a chapter on “Spiritual Connectedness” or how leaders respond to failure.  Leaders should not even use the word “failure” due to its connotation of finality. Failure has the potential to be a springboard to hope if the person believes in the possibility of forgiveness, which we learn from our religious traditions. This is where religion as an exercise outside of the workplace must depend on some type of workplace spirituality to take up the cause of forgiveness on the job.  There is no clear process or direction given on how leaders are to do this but simply the mention of it (Conger, 1994).

Although clearly not a business leadership book, Jack Miller’s writings are highly regarded for his empathy and directness in addressing the heart issues of persons at work in their daily lives.  Miller addresses these issues as one who has struggled in similar ways but only through God’s loving grace has overcome them, and is willing to aid the reader in following this process as well (Miller, 2004).  Jack Miller was a pastor, church planter, seminary professor, missionary and author (Miller, 2004).  During his life, Miller wrote hundreds of letters to pastors, missionaries, and other Christian leaders with a very self-effacing style, urging his readers to model Christ’s love and honoring the Lord as the main purpose for serving others.  In the book The Heart of a Servant Leader Miller’s daughter Barbara Miller Juliani has collected some 70 of Miller’s letters written between 1980 and the year he died, which carefully reflect the mind and character of the longtime evangelist, church planter, and missionary.  Intimate, articulate, and direct, the letters serve as models of the compassionate leadership Miller taught.  The parts of the book which represent a redemptive approach to leadership are evidenced in Miller’s transparency about his own challenges in trusting the work of the ministry to others who may move ahead of him or who may have different objectives yet in whom he must trust to expand the ministry (Miller, 2000).  Miller also grieves over the sin he must challenge among the people who he is called to serve (he calls them “self-centered rebels”) but through this he also sees how God must deal with his own selfishness in order to draw out the uncleanness in others (Miller, 2004).  Miller is very capable in several of his letters to directly address issues of the heart and sin in the lives of the readers.  He seems both passionate and conscientious about this because he earnestly reflects on his own sinful heart and his complete transparent dependence upon God Who has help him work through some of the very same issues to which he confronts the readers (Miller, 2004).  Miller truly represents a “Christ-type” leadership figure who lovingly yet directly confront the rebellious human nature in each of his subordinates, while loving the individual enough to compel them on towards greater levels of performance.  Is not this the “sacred responsibility” towards their employee given the manager in overseeing and ‘shepherding’ those within their care (Banks & Stevens, 1997)?

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Joseph J. Bucci

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