What is the most valuable asset an organization has? Every successful organization, whether for profit or not-for-profit, has a mission statement. How do they achieve that mission?
The background: Joshua was a great leader whom God used to lead the Israelites into the Promised Land. Our first glimpse of him is as he leads the Israelites into a battle. Moses asked Joshua to choose some men and fight the Amalekites. Exodus 17:8-13 tells the story.
If we skip to the end, we are told that Joshua overcame the Amalekite army. God used the leadership of Joshua to win the battle, but that doesn't tell the whole story. In this first leadership training session, Joshua learned a valuable life lesson that he followed in his leadership of Israel.
In an unusual strategy to win a battle, God told Moses, Aaron, and Hur to stand atop a nearby hill. 'As long as Moses held up his hands, the Israelites were winning, but whenever he lowered his hands, the Amalekites were winning' (verse 11). Aaron and Hur then had Moses sit on a rock and they each held up one of his hands. They did this until sunset and Joshua and the Israelites won the battle.
The mission: God could have easily helped Joshua win this battle without the unusual help of Moses, Aaron, and Hur, but He used this first experience to teach Joshua an important life lesson. God showed Joshua that the battle wasn't all about him. The jobs of Aaron and Hur seem especially minor compared to Joshua leading the army into battle.
Joshua is probably the one who had his picture in the paper the next morning, but he could not have won without the three helpers fulfilling the jobs God called them to do.
Joshua learned he was a participant in God's plan for victory, not the center.
God was interested in the goal of winning the battle, not who was most important or who got the credit.
The most important asset: God included Moses, Aaron, and Hur, not just Joshua, in the description of the victory. Why? It is God's idea that everyone is important in the story. I Corinthians 3:5-9 addresses this issue as well: 'What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe-as the Lord has assigned to each his task. I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow . . . The man who plants and the man who waters have one purpose, and each will be rewarded according to his own labor. For we are God's fellow workers . . . '
The goal is advancing the Kingdom. Each person, no matter how famous or not, has a part to play. Be it Paul or Apollos, each person plays a part in God's great story. This chapter is clear in stating that no one should think too highly of self.
A mission-oriented management style: The commonly accepted definition for management is 'getting things done through people.' Obviously that definition could be seen as using people to achieve one's goal. Perhaps a better way to think about this is to ask, 'What is my role in the great story and how can I best help others fulfill their roles?'
As a manager, one's goal is to help accomplish the mission of the organization. Some could see the job as accomplishing the mission by motivating, rewarding, coercing, or directing others to meet the objectives.
What if we looked at accomplishing the mission of the organization by serving others? Myron Rush suggests the definition of management be changed to 'meeting the needs of people as they work at accomplishing their jobs.' Philippians 2:5-7 says, 'Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.'
Jesus became a leader by serving others.
The practical application: What would happen to an organization if the managers became servants to their staffs? If the goal of a manager is to help accomplish the strategic mission of the organization, and if every person is important in fulfilling a part of that process, then the role of the manager becomes: one who helps others fulfill their roles.
No professional football or soccer team would win if every player were a quarterback or goalie. The goal is to win the game and ultimately the Super Bowl or World Cup. From offensive to defensive skills and roles, each player and position is needed to win. Some do earn more than others. Some might have more responsibility. But, each one is needed to win in the long run of a season. Every workplace is the same.
Each person deserves respect and deserves to be treated with importance. In the world's eyes, Aaron and Hur didn't have very important jobs. All they did was 'hold up Moses' hands.' What if Joshua would have said that he won the battle with his gift of leading the Israelite army? An important lesson was taught to all that day. The Israelite army would not have won the battle if every person had not done the job God called them to do.
In his newest book, The Three Signs of a Miserable Job, Patrick Lencioni closes by saying:
. . . by helping people find fulfillment in their work, and helping them succeed in whatever they're doing, a manager can have a profound impact on the emotional, financial, physical, and spiritual health of workers and their families. They can also create an environment where employees do the same for their peers, giving them a sort of ministry of their own. All of which is nothing short of a gift from God. And so I suppose that the real shame is not that more people aren't working in positions of service to others, but that so many managers haven't yet realized that they already are.
Every person in an organization is important. Each person has a part to play. What would happen if managers served others and helped each person fulfill his or her God-given talent?
Mike Gough is chair of the division of business administration at MidAmerica Nazarene University in Olathe, Kansas.
Holiness Today, September/October 2009