Archive for December, 2010

Creativity and Innovation

26 Dec

The creativity and innovation experience: A delicate balancing act for leaders in a turbulent environment

Every organization’s leadership desires success and, with limited resources in a slowing economy, tight budgets drive creativity and innovation.1 For-profit organizations strive for sustainable competitive advantage. Non-profit organizations, not motivated by earnings, endeavor to achieve their mission and vision by inspiring participants and donors to contribute to a cause “bigger than themselves.”  Whatever the motivation, organizational survival requires the articulation of a clear, emotionally engaging, and consistent vision, and an organizational culture that stimulates creativity and innovation.2 This article shows the interdependence between creativity and innovation and that organizations working in an environment with positive turbulence orchestrated by transformational leadership generate more creative ideas and original solutions.3

The typical business organization in the mid 20th century highly valued predictability and repetition. In the name of efficiency, its configuration was intended to maintain order and reduce variability. “Keep it the same and everyone will be happy” was the mantra of the day. Post WW2 consumers were content to receive whatever was available and competition was minimal, almost nonexistent. Although labor unions meted out demands for fair labor practices, employees, for the most part, made few demands on their employers and were happy to have a steady job and regular paycheck.4

The climate of the 21st century, however, is entirely different. Deregulation, social change, environmental issues, foreign competition, a national and global economic crisis, and overwhelming advancement in technology have shattered the stability of the 50s, leaving a fast-moving uncertain new global environment. It is a world that is unpredictable, and sometimes terrifyingly so.5

As leaders try to cope in this volatile environment by seeking to impose order, organization, and focus, their organizations pay a high price: lack of creativity and innovation. Although training, intuition, and habit lead in this direction, a counterintuitive approach is needed. Leaders must see in new ways, come up with new ways of doing things, and change direction.6 The challenge for leaders is towards effective people management – enhancing, releasing, and harnessing their creativity. It is to look forward with optimism, reflect on the past, and determine what shift is needed now and in the future.7   

The Dynamic Duo: Creativity and Innovation

When we have an idea that works, it is common for us to dispel alternatives. We tend to develop tunnel-vision about what will work or what can be accomplished, sticking with the familiar till proven wrong.8 Consider Thomas Edison. In 1879, he was a bold and courageous innovator. However, by 1889, when his invention of the incandescent light bulb was challenged by the fluorescent bulb, he was a cautious and conservative defender of the status quo.9 Thus, it appears that it is at the center of any tradition where individuals become blind to alternatives.10

Transcending this dilemma requires a willingness to embrace the uncertain, a willingness to move beyond the comfortable into the realm of creativity; creativity being defined as, “the ability to transcend traditional ideas, rules, patterns, relationships, or the like, and to create meaningful new ideas, forms, methods, interpretations, etc.; originality, progressiveness, or imagination.” 11 Simply stated, creativity is about ideas. It includes discovery or invention of a significant idea, pattern, method, or device that gains recognition.12 Creativity requires that we step away from first impressions and, as Leonardo da Vinci believed, learn how to restructure problems and situations to see them in many different ways.13

Creative thinking also refers to how people approach existing problems to come up with a variety of solutions.14 It is carefully coordinated efforts that put existing, conventional ideas together to create new ways of solving problems. Therefore, it does not necessarily come just from an individual’s intellectual capacity but it is an outcome of their creative thinking skills and expertise, based on past experience.15

Innovation is as much about escaping old ideas as it is about the successful implementation of creative ones. The success of the organization does not come just from the articulation of vision, strategy, and objectives, but from their execution. As such, innovation is about getting it done.16 It is a central determinant of longer-run success and failure for organizations.17

Creativity and innovation have been considered the cornerstones of healthy organizations.18 It is the dual capabilities of creativity and innovation together that engender success. And, this combination is important to an organization for two reasons. First, creativity and innovation are not adjuncts to organizational life, they create the future. They excite employees by focusing on what is possible.19

Second, creativity and innovation are crucial capabilities for successful organizations that cannot be simply dismissed. They form fundamental organizational processes that together are an essential competencies for their leaders. Together they are central to effectiveness because they form a process of generating ideas and possibilities and transforming them into reality. Imagination and implementation, possibilities and products, ideas and impact – these are everyday terms that talk about creativity and innovation.20

Leadership that Encourages Creativity and Innovation

It has been asserted that creativity and innovation are the most important sources of economic growth. However, despite this growing acclaim, there remains an interesting paradox: organizations need innovation but usually resist it because innovation and organizations have conflicting aims. Innovation tends to unsettle the established order of organizations. At its very core, the entrepreneurial process of innovation that brings about incredible change is at odds with the administrative processes of organizations which are designed to ensure consistency and repetitiveness.21

As previously stated, creative thinking refers to how people approach existing problems and come up with a variety of solutions.22/23 It is a person’s carefully arranged efforts to put existing, conventional ideas together to generate new approaches to solving problems.24  As such, it does not just come from an individual’s intellectual capacity to invent something new but is also an outcome of their accumulated creative thinking skills and expertise based on experience.25 However, although an individual has creative thinking skills and expertise, a high level of creativity cannot be achieved if they lack motivation26 or the opportunity to engage in creative processes.

As such, there are a number of personality traits that research has indicated help people increase their level of creativity skills. For example, if a person feels comfortable disagreeing with others, creativity can be enhanced not only for themselves, but for the entire group or organization.27 Consequently, creativity can be achieved when organizational processes encourage individuals to try different approaches that depart from the status quo without the unnecessary fear of being punished for negative outcomes.28 The creation of such an organizational environment (discussed later) may assist employees in generating diverse perspectives on addressing old problems as a matter of normal process.29

Research also demonstrates that intrinsic motivation is perhaps one of the most important factors that increase creativity among individuals and that it can be enhanced substantially by making subtle changes in the organizational environment. Since individuals may have to spend enormous amounts of time and effort to increase their intellectual capacity, expertise, and creative-thinking skills, the creation of such an environment/culture may be an excellent strategy for introducing innovation into an organization.30

Therefore, it is the responsibility of the leaders to leverage the creative energy of the workforce and, at the same time, find new ways to create an organizational culture that is less resistant to the change required to carry out ensuing innovations.31 It is the responsibility of leadership to make it okay throughout the organization to be risk-takers,32 to be creative, and then make it part of people’s responsibilities.33

In this process of reshaping the organization’s environment to assist in the generation of creative ideas, researchers have emphasized the important role leaders play in this process. It is the leaders that define what the organization’s mission and vision are and facilitate the whole process of motivating followers to apply their maximum efforts to cooperatively achieve the objectives. They also have a strong impact on how their subordinates engage in achieving their goals. As such, it has been hypothesized that certain leader characteristics are important determinants for enabling creative behavior and divergent thinking in organizations.34

Of the numerous studies conducted on leadership, creativity and innovation, more than 35 have found that transformational leadership is positively associated with higher levels of follower performance and creativity.35 These leaders tend to exhibit distinct behaviors that promote creativity: intellectual stimulation, individualized consideration, and inspirational motivation.36 By definition, intellectual stimulation promotes creativity by developing members’ generative (divergent thinking, including remote association and pattern switching)37 and exploratory thinking (refining of ideas through elaboration and successive improvements of ideas). Individualized consideration recognizes each member’s viewpoint and ideas and leads to an expanded source of knowledge and information for group members to use in solving problems. Inspirational motivation helps elevate member’s goals above the ordinary. This network broadens the knowledge base throughout the organization that may stimulate an additional creative idea.38

Transformational leaders also inspire followers to link their self-concept to the collective interest of the organization and its mission, which increased followers’ intrinsic motivation to work collectively. As such, there is a direct correlation between this intrinsic motivation and creativity that enhances and encourages the idea generating processes. 39

As seen, transformational leaders engage in the active and emotional relationships with followers at whatever level they operate.40 They are able to mobilize and sustain energy and activity within their organizations by taking specific personal actions. They influence their colleagues’ values, goals, needs, and aspirations through their relentless attention to shaping interpretations and creating a sense of purpose and energize the organization by finding ways to motivate its members to achieve the mission. They demonstrate empathy, listen, understand and share the feelings of others and express their confidence in their own ability and in the ability of others.41

Transformational leaders create events to signal and celebrate transitions and turning points by providing contingent rewards.42They also express support for individuals struggling with the pressures of change efforts by reinforcing the new vision and culture. They provide an emotional focal point for the energies, hopes, and aspirations of people in the organization. They also serve as powerful role models whose actions and personal energy demonstrated the desired behaviors, a standard to which others aspire. Through their commitment, effectiveness and consistency, they also build a personal bond between themselves and the organization.43

Within this leadership style, there are a number of tools used to generate creativity among workers. And a large amount of literature on creativity, discovery, design, innovation, and composition can be classified into three intersecting schools, identified as structuralists, inspirationalists, and situationalists. Shneiderman identifies the characteristics of these personalities as follows:44

  • Structuralists believe people can be creative if they follow an orderly method, typically described with several stages, such as preparation, incubation, illumination, and verification. Structuralist thinking encourages systematic tools that include progress indicators with reminders of what is still needed.
  • Inspirationalists argue that breaking away from familiar structures elicits creative solutions. They advocate working on unrelated problems, getting away to scenic locations, and viewing random photos or inkblots. Inspirationalists promote meditation, hypnosis, dreaming, and playful exploration. They seek to liberate thinking from old habits so as to break through to the Aha! moment of inspiration. This school of thinking advocates sketching to quickly explore possibilities, concept mapping to discover unexpected relationships, and visualization strategies to see the big picture.
  • Situationalists recognize that creative work is social. They seek to understand the motivation of creative people, their family history, and their personal relationships with challenging teachers, empathetic peers, or helpful mentors. They understand the need for distinctive forms of consultation at early stages when fear of rejection, ridicule, and rip-off are high versus later stages when validation, refinement, and dissemination are prominent. Situationalists seek to understand the motivating roles of rewards and recognition, as well as completion vs. collaboration.45


While these schools of thought are not prominent within the discussion of transformational leadership, each is unique, distinctive, and offer different approaches to innovation and creativity. It is again emphasized, however, that research supports the transformational leadership style as one which provides a greater opportunity and  better environment for creativity and innovation among employees. And while the Aha! moments of discovery and innovation are typically very personal, the processes that lead to them are often highly collaborative. As such, it is essential the organization develops communication systems that enable users to expose their uncertainties in a safe, trusting environment.46

A New Culture/Environment

At the center of any tradition, it is easy not to see the alternatives. On the edges, however, where lines are blurred, it is easier to visualize that the world might be different. It is from the place of uncertainty that vision and new direction sometimes arise. As such, organizations must acknowledge this different, uncertain world and perceive this new unstable environment as a reservoir crowded with new creative possibilities and ideas.47

In addition, the survival of an organization does not depend so much on the degree to which the employee sees eye-to-eye with their leaders, except, of course, with regards to some core values like honesty and fairness and agreement as to what their strategic goals are. It often depends on the degree to which people differ from one another, or even seek conflicting information. It is typically out of respectful dissention that creative ideas come that form the basis for organizational growth. Diversity, varied viewpoints, diverse styles, and opposing opinions: all of these variations are necessary if an organization is to renew itself and move ahead. 48 Thus, the task of leaders is to create a safe haven for new thinking, a culture that encourages a broad range of ideas, including those not immediately seen as feasible or even sensible, but from which birth seeds of creativity and innovation.49

This environment can be an energizing climate that upsets the status quo but impels people toward change. Purposefully engineered to create an environment compatible with change and filled with members who can adapt to the change opportunity,50 leaders recognize the need to make creativity part of the culture.51 This is where positive turbulence is generated. Based on a counterintuitive notion that turbulence can be introduced to organize the chaos out on the edges of the organization, it provides a process of turning change into a productive force that can lead to creativity, innovation, and the on-going revitalization of an organization.52

It also fosters a culture where uncertainties and new information are embraced, not feared.53 And leaders can ease the fear by building in stability. Even as the change occurs, by preparing key people for change, and providing information and detail on the change in advance, it mitigates the destructive aspects political behavior may cause. Thus leaders must always be honest and candid, and constantly sending consistent messages to lessen uncertainty. Also, critical to this process of forming new culture is the need to be clear about what is not changing – what people can hold onto in the future. This helps lessen fears of the future and must be communicated and reinforced early on in the process.54

Generating an environment with positive turbulence and creating a culture receptive to change, leaders can actually create stability within an organization. Although it has a negative connotation, turbulence is used to describe the constantly changing environment in which modern organizations must operate. It is in this chaotic frenzied environment, which threatens all organizations, where new ideas are birthed. And it is out of this disruption and change that useful information, new perspectives, and new ideas are generated. As leaders identify new trends and assimilate new information, they introduce it to the organization and work with it, thus guarding the organization against being blindsided.55

One additional consideration. Since an organization’s culture is key to both short-term and long-term success, managing stability for today and introducing uncertainties for the future are essential. The development of an ambidextrous organization that can celebrate stability and incremental change as well as manage experimentation and discontinuous/sporadic change simultaneously may help lessen the likelihood leaders will be trapped by the successes of the past. Although culture provides competitive advantage, it can also create obstacles to innovation, creativity, and change needed for successful sustainability.56 Balancing these by generating an environment with positive unrest and creating a culture receptive to change may help mitigate the scenario of short-term success but long-term failure.

Concluding Thoughts

Tushman and O’Reilly make this significant observation; “The stultifying, innovation-numbing effects of success are a global phenomenon. Managing by guiding internal congruence, strong culture, and continuous improvement is not sufficient for sustaining competitive advantage. Worse, under a remarkably common set of conditions, it can trap an organization in its past and lead to catastrophic failure as technologies and markets shift. Erhard Pfeiffer, who has transformed Compaq, succinctly notes that “nothing is harder than casting aside the thinking, strategies, and biases that propelled a business to its current success. Companies need to learn how to unlearn, to slough off yesterday’s wisdom.””57    

As the global environment becomes more turbulent, more competitive, and as creative and innovative people become more integral to an organization’s success, one of the most important roles leaders can play is to find out how they can inspire subordinates’ creative potentials in the 21st century.58 Leaders identified as having this characteristic and those necessary for an organization to move past yesterday’s successes exemplify transformational leadership traits. Transformational leaders accomplish this by communicating a clear, consistently articulated, and engaging vision and by creating environments where creativity and innovation can be freely explored.

As such, the most effective organizations are the ones in which creativity flourishes. And success comes less from knowing the right answer than having the ability to pursue multiple courses of action generated from creative ideas and to innovate quickly. It is leadership that is the most important dynamic that affects organizational creativity and innovation and who must also recognize the unsettling nature of turbulence, even though it is energetic, forceful, catalytic, and unpredictable. These leaders recognize that what is needed to turn the turbulence into a positive force – generating an environment with positive turbulence – and creating a culture receptive to change.59

End Notes:
1Maddox, K. (2007). Tight Budgets Drive Creativity, Innovation. Business to Business. Vol. 92, Issue 10, p.25.
2Tushman, M. L. and O’Reilly, C. A. III (2002). Winning Through Innovation: A Practical Guide to Learning Organizational Change and Renewal. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Publishing Corporation.
3Sosik, J.J., Kahai, S.S., and Avolio, B.J. (1998). Transformational Leadership and Dimensions of Creativity: Motivating Idea Generating in Computer-Mediated Groups. Creativity Research Journal. Vol. 11, No. 2, p. 111-121.
4Gryskiewicz, S. (1999). Positive Turbulence: Developing climates for creativity, innovation, and renewal. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass Publishers.
5Gryskiewicz, S. (1999).
6Gryskiewicz, S. (1999).
7Bichard, M. (2000). Creativity, Leadership, and Change. Public Money & Management. April-June, p. 41-46.
8Michalko, M. 2001). Cracking Creativity: The Secrets of Creative Genius. Berkeley, CA: Ten Speed Press.
9Utterback, J.M. (1996). Mastering the Dynamics of Innovation. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Press.
10Gryskiewicz, S. (1999).
11, accessed September 2008.
12Shneiderman, B. (2007). Creativity Support Tools: Accelerating Discovery and Innovation. Communications of the ACM.  Vol. 50, No. 12, p. 20-32.
13Michalko, M. (2001).
14Amabile, T.M. (1996). Creativity in Context: Update to the Social Psychology of Creativity. Boulder, CO: Westview.
15Amabile, T.M. (1998). How to Kill Creativity. Harvard Business Review. Vol. 76, No. 5, p. 77-87.
16Tushman, M. L. and O’Reilly, C. A. III (2002).
17Utterback, J.M. (1996).
18Gryskiewicz, S. (1999).
19Nissley, N. (2007). Good Leadership Demands a Combination of the Two. Leadership in Action. Vol. 27, No. 2, p. 21-22.
20Nissley, N. (2007).
22Amabile, T.M. (1996).
23Amabile, T.M. (1998).
24Jung, D.I. (2001). Transformational and Transactional Leadership and Their Effects on Creativity in Groups. Creativity Research Journal. Vol. 13, No. 2, p. 185-195.
25Amabile, T.M. (1998).
26Jung, D.I. (2001).
27Amabile, T.M. (1998).
28Amabile, T.M., Conti, R., Coon, H., Lazenby, J., and Herron, M. (1996). Assessing the Work Environment for Creativity. Academy of Management Journal, No. 39, 1154-1184.
29Jung, D.I. (2001).
31Nissley, N. (2007).
32Bichard, M. (2000).
33A GMJ Q&A with Jim Clifton (2006). Is Your Organization Creative Enough? Gallup Management Journal. Release date Thursday, May 11,
, D.I. (2001).
35Kirkpatrick, S.A. and Lock, E.A. (1996). Direct and Indirect Effects of Three Core Charismatic Leadership Components on Performance and Attitudes. Journal of Applied Psychology. No. 81, p. 36-51.
36Sosik, J.J., Kahai, S.S., and Avolio, B.J. (1998).
37Guliford J.P. (1984). Varieties of Divergent Production. Journal of Creative Behavior. No. 18, p. 1-10.
38Sosik, J.J., Kahai, S.S., and Avolio, B.J. (1998).
40Jung, D.I. (2001).
41Tushman, M. L. and O’Reilly, C. A. III (2002).
42Sternberg, R.J. (2005). A Model of Educational Leadership: Wisdom, Intelligence, and Creativity, Synthesized. International Journal of Leadership in Education. Vol. 8, No. 4, p. 347-364.
43Tushman, M. L. and O’Reilly, C. A. III (2002).
44Shneiderman, B. (2007).
45Ibid., p. 25.
46Shneiderman, B. (2007).
47Gryskiewicz, S. (1999).
49Goveno, J.A. (2001). Six Steps for Encouraging Employee Creativity. Innovative Leader, Vol. 10, No.
7, Article 533, accessed November 2008 at article_index/articles/501-550/article533_body . . .
50Tushman, M. L. and O’Reilly, C. A. III (2002).
51A GMJ Q&A with Jim Clifton (2006).
52Gryskiewicz, S. (1999).
54Tushman, M. L. and O’Reilly, C. A. III (2002).
55Gryskiewicz, S. (1999).
56Tushman, M. L. and O’Reilly, C. A. III (2002).
57Ibid., p. 158.
58Jung, D.I. (2001).
59Gryskiewicz, S. (1999). 

No part of these articles may be reproduced in any form without permission from the author.


20 Dec

there is nothing more common in organizations than self-deception . . . an act that is contrary to what i know i should do for another. it boils down to one word . . . choice. it is my choice to see others as real persons or to view them as objects – thus engaging in self-deception. i have a choice to view others as individuals with needs, hopes, and worries as real and legitimate as my own.

i wish it wasn’t true, but this is in the church and in our homes. when our desires to accomplish something override the importance of relationships, it is present in us. it divides parents from children, husbands from wives, neighbor from neighbor, co-worker from co-worker, leaders from followers. families disintegrate, marriages fall apart, friendships are destroyed, businesses loose sustainability, and churches become irrelevant and ineffective.

when we choose to see others as fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers . . . real people with real hopes and desires who have emotions just like us, our influence on others moves from coercion to leadership.

(thoughts from leadership and self-deception by the arbinger institute)

No part of these articles may be reproduced in any form without permission from the author.

Honoring Cultural Distinctives

17 Dec

Abstract:  This article identifies some of the characteristics associated with individuals of shame cultures. Distinctively different from western culture, organizations engaged in cross-cultural communication and global enterprise with individuals from this culture must understand its attributes and gain competencies that surpass the verbal exchange of words. The repercussions in the business world for not being cognizant of these distinctives can be financially ruinous. However, for those sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ, the consequences can have eternal ramifications. Remaining firmly anchored in our own cultural patterns, believing they are the best and only way, ultimately leads others to conclude we are arrogant, egocentric, and our intentions purely self-seeking.

Keywords:       Shame culture
                       Guilt culture
                       Saving face


DEFINITION:  Shame. 1.1. The painful emotion arising from the consciousness of something dishonouring, ridiculous, or indecorous in one’s own conduct or circumstances (or in those of others who honour or disgrace on regards as one’s own), or of being in a situation which offends one’s sense of modesty or decency (The Oxford English Dictionary).

When conflict arises, individuals of shame cultures put a high value on saving face. This cultural concept has existed for centuries yet has not been fully understood by those from western countries. A value distinctively different from our western culture (typically identified as guilt cultures), understanding the culture of shame helps provide the insight needed to interact in the global marketplace. Unless we recognize that communication is more than the verbal exchange of words and grasp this concept and the ramifications of dishonoring another, our endeavors will be impeded or abruptly terminated.

Organizational survival and effectiveness increasingly depends on the ability of its leaders to interact and manage people of different cultures.1 With increased multicultural connections, leaders from western countries must understand the cultural distinctive known as the culture of shame so communication and relationship building efforts are not rejected because of misunderstandings or missed cues. It is therefore necessary to understand the concept of saving face when investing in cross-cultural relationships, understand it is not a new concept, and that it is not limited to just a few people groups.

Culture of Shame

In the January 16, 2008 edition of the Jordan Times (Amman, Jordan), the author cites the Prime Minister’s criticism of unemployed citizens who shun jobs due to their culture of shame.2 In a 2006 North American Journal of Psychology, the authors emphatically state that Japan is a shame-based culture, 3 as does Cooke in his writings.4 Hollander contends, “Anthropologists, psychologists, and philosophers have apparently concurred that shame is the most social and the most visually conveyed of all emotions. It is directly involved with one’s social serf”.5 Stephen Greer explores the topic of shame in first-century Jewish culture and Christianity in his research article6 and Konstan investigates shame in ancient Greece.7

People groups identified as having a culture of shame have existed for centuries. From ancient Greeks to first century Jews to modern day Jordanians and Japanese, this cultural distinctive is a deeply rooted social trait. Culture, defined as “the context in which we live, the windows through which we experience the world; our attitudes (judgments about people, places, and cultures), our values (desires, wants, and needs), and our identities (who we are and who they are),” influences the way we think, act, react, and interact with others.8 Thus, the need to recognize how other peoples function within their cultures is paramount if our organizations are to compete in the world marketplace.

A culture of shame is unlike a culture of guilt. Understanding this distinctive is important since western culture is considered a culture of guilt and others (some mentioned above) are considered cultures of shame. Cooke differentiates these cultures as follows:

“A society which inculcates absolute standards of morality and relies on men’s developing a conscience is a guilt culture by definition. Whereas a man who has sinned can obtain relief by confession and remorse, a man who is shamed cannot unburden himself by contrition. Consequently, shame cultures do not provide for confessions even to gods. They have ceremonies for good luck rather than expiation. Shame is a reaction to other people’s criticism. A man is shamed either by being openly ridiculed or rejected or by fantasying to himself that he has been made ridiculous. In either case, it is a potent sanction. But it requires an audience or at least a man’s fantasy of an audience. Guilt does not.” 9

Shame always comes from outside, a result of some type of public exposure. It lays in the power of others and an individual has no control to decide if they are shamed or not. In fact, it may not be one’s own actions that bring about shame but the actions or words of others.

Shame and Honor: The Connection

To help understand the concept of shame, it is beneficial to understand its counter: honor. Honor can be described as the value of a person in his or her own eyes plus that person’s value in the eyes of his or her social group. It is the claim to worth along with the social acknowledgement of that worth. Since the focal institution around which these societies are structured is kinship, the family is everything. As such, when the family is the highlighted institution of concern in the society, shame and honor are central cultural characteristics.10

The connection between these two concepts is borne out daily in the Middle East. Arabs and Muslims generally live in a shame society in which the acquisition of honor and the avoidance of shame are key motivators. As such, these values distort reality and obligate them to cancel out feelings of shame by engaging in acts of heroism. These acts are seen primarily as face saving / shame avoidance “heroics.” Although noble to them, this violence (i.e. suicide bombings) is retaliation for having their honor and dignity questioned or attacked.11

The concept of shame and honor is also a distinctive in most Asian, Hispanic, South Pacific, and African cultures, where the family is typically central. In Japan, for instance, it has been surmised that the shame of being inferior to foreigners followed the 200 years of isolation and strong family bonding during the reign of the shogun.12  Although terrorist acts of “face saving” are not typical of these cultures, other expressions are significant. For instance, during World War 2, thousands of Japanese pilots committed “hara-kiri” and hundreds of thousands of Japanese soldiers fought to the death instead of allowing themselves to be captured (though they had exhausted their munitions) to save their honor and the honor of Japan.

An example of this cultural trait amongst today’s Japanese is their concepts of Wa and Kao. Wa or harmony is the most valued principle in Japanese society. It is reflected in the avoidance of self-assertion, individualism, and the preservation of good relationships. As such, this concept is reflected in their indirect expression or avoidance of saying “no.” Kao is the notion of saving face. Preservation of a person’s pride / reputation / social status is achieved through avoiding confrontations and direct criticism.13

As western organizational leaders realize that the cultural value of shame and saving face is not emotionally based, but centered in the old imperatives of honor and shame, our approach to building relationships will change. As such, we must recognize that the very qualities that make us successful in the west often hinder success in cultures of shame and result in missed opportunities. Not taken into account is the way an individual from shame cultures think, feel, and react. Although directness is a virtue in our culture, they will typically avoid conflict at all cost.14

Our culture does not typically foster the personal side of business relationships. This trait is quite the opposite in many cultures imbedded with the idiosyncratic notion of shame and saving face. It is through relationships that ‘things get done’ in their culture. Our success in these cultures will depend on the depth and quality of the relationships we establish. Thus, developing cross-cultural competencies and investing in understanding different cultures are essential for global success.15

Implications for Business Organizations

Al St.Cyr works with AIB (American Institute of Baking) International and inspects food preparation facilities throughout the world who export their products to the U.S. During a recent conversation, Al spoke of the difficulty he had dealing with individuals from Asian countries. Specific to each business transaction was the difficulty to determine if “yes” would result in a definitive agreement or action on the part of his Asian counterparts. Most negotiations / interactions did not result in the “agreed upon”    action. 16

After a number of attempts to resolve this impasse with a Japanese company, St.Cyr sought the assistance of an American born Japanese colleague who explained to him the cultural trait of shame and the significance of saving face. In some instances, St.Cyr’s Japanese counterparts did not understand what he was requesting. Even through they spoke excellent English, they did not want to shame themselves before a “foreigner” by admitting they did not know precisely what was being asked of them. In other instances, they had no intention to do what was being asked. However, in both situations, they did not want to shame themselves or their organization by saying “no” or indicating they did not understand.17

While reading Duane Elmer’s book titled Cross-Cultural Conflict, I was reminded of an incident that occurred while serving with Bridgestone/Firestone in Liberia, West Africa. We hired a Liberian woman to help my wife care for the house since it is a cultural expectation to hire Liberians to work as house help, yard workers, and night security. Margaret was an excellent worker and we entrusted her with the safekeeping of our household. We never questioned her loyalty and compensated her more than was customary because of her integrity.

As a westerner, whenever something breaks, I typically ask what happened and who broke the item. Although there no intention of reprisal or blame, it is just my nature (custom) to get a “truthful” answer. On one occasion, Margaret was helping bake cookies and accidentally dropped a mixing bowl. When I heard the noise, I walked into the kitchen and asked Margaret if she had broken the bowl. “No, Bossman (their customary term of respect), the bowl fell and broke.”

I thought, “Of course it fell; you dropped it, it hit the floor and it broke. No big deal – no one was hurt and it can be replaced. Why can’t you just acknowledge it slipped out of your hands and broke when it hit the floor? Accidents happen all the time.”

Although there was no further discussion about the broken bowl, Margaret’s response resonated with me. “Why was she unable (or unwilling) to admit it was just an accident in which she was the human component?” It was just recently I fully understood her response. Because she lives in a culture where saving face is a social characteristic, she would have felt shame had I persisted in getting “the correct response” from her. Similar to Elmer’s situation, if I could have changed her to think and act like me, I could have avoided some of the awkwardness of adapting to her culture.18

These situations, through different in their impact, represent how cultural traits influence relationships and, ultimately, business. St.Cyr’s efforts to conduct business with his Japanese counterparts were not hindered by language but by differences in culture, which ultimately affects communication. Since he was properly instructed, his subsequent business dealings were successful. Similarly, if I had known about this cultural distinctive when living in Africa, my interaction with Margaret would not have resulted in misunderstanding.

The impact of cultural differences between westerners and those from societies where a culture of shame exists is escalated when conflict occurs. As Gudykunst and Kim posit, “our cultures influence the ways we think about conflicts and our preferences for managing them.”19

To illustrate the diverse ways different cultures respond to conflict, Gudykunst and Kim explain that members of individualistic cultures (westerners) often separate the issue on which they have conflict from the people with whom they are in conflict while members of collectivistic cultures (i.e. Japanese) do not separate the conflict from the person. As such, Japanese take criticism of an idea personally and will take the necessary action to save face personally or save face for their organization.20

Western organizational leaders who encounter a conflict when in business negotiations with individuals from a culture of shame can help defuse the conflict by being aware of this trait and engage in behavior that will not humiliate or embarrass but save face for their counterparts – especially when in a public setting. Since these individuals perceive their actions reflect on their colleagues and they consider their colleagues when managing conflict, westerners may suggest the use of a third party to mediate the conflict. Westerners also need to pay close attention to non-verbal behavior and listen more carefully for implicit messages. Finally, it may be necessary to let go of the conflict if it is perceived that individuals from a shame culture do not recognize that a conflict exist or choose not to deal with it (avoidance being a preferred strategy).21

The repercussions in the business world for not being cognizant of others’ cultural distinctives can be financially ruinous. However, for those sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ, the consequences of not understanding different cultures can have eternal ramifications.

Implications for Religious Organizations

A number of years ago, I heard a preacher speak using the text Hebrews 12:2, “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning the shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” What he missed in the text and what I did not understand was the phrase “scorning the shame.” This phrase gives a significant clue into first-century Mediterranean culture, a characteristic that exists there today.

During the first-century, the Jewish and Greco-Roman cultures (and Arab) were oriented toward the approval and disapproval of others – it was a culture of shame. This trait meant that individuals were likely to strive to embody the qualities and perform the behaviors that the group held to be honorable and avoid those acts that brought shame / reproach and caused a person’s estimation in the eyes of others to diminish.22

Honor and shame are not only about the individual’s sense of worth but also about the coordination and promotion of the group’s defining and central values. It is about the strategies needed to preserve the group’s culture in the midst of a complex web of competing cultures and about the way honor or shame are attained, displayed, and enacted.23 Consequently, the concept of honor and shame / saving face was captured by the New Testament writers.

This cultural attribute is no doubt one reason the early Christian church faced such violent opposition as their neighbors tried to reclaim these wayward members of society back into conformity with traditional Jewish values or with the Greco-Roman social order.24 The insight we gain from scripture into this cultural distinctive gives an indication how we must respond today to those who live in this shame culture.

Bruce Thomas writes a compelling article titled The Gospel for Shame Cultures. His research dealing with evangelizing Muslims reveals that, according to Islam, defilement is a human problem as serious to them as sin is to others. It is more important to be ritually clean than to abstain from lying, cheating, sexual immorality, etc. Thomas discovers that shame is related to defilement in the Muslim religion the way guilt is related to sin. Shame is the feeling of anxiety about one’s presentation, the response to disapproval of one’s peers. In contrast, guilt is the self-condemnation resulting from the violation of internalized convictions of right and wrong.25

For a Muslim, it is more important to be free from the feeling of defilement than to be free from sin. Sin does not cause defilement / shame in the eyes of others; failure to be ritually cleaned following an act that makes one unclean is more importance. For instance, a prolonged state of ritual uncleanness following sexual intercourse is more unthinkable than adultery.26

Consequently, when the writer of Hebrews states that Jesus scorned the shame, it speaks more clearly to Asians, Latin Americans, Mediterranean, and Islamic countries since these cultures place a prominent emphasis on honor, shame, and saving face.27 The concept of Jesus being defiled for us (becoming sin for us) so we might be free from defilement (the righteousness of God), as written in 2 Corinthians 5:21, speaks more succinctly to Muslims since, as previously stated, it is not sin that causes shame / loss of face.

Building relationships with those from shame cultures can also place us in awkward situations that, if not responded to properly, can shame them or put us in a compromising position. A colleague shared the following story:

“One of my lecturers in college was raised on the mission field until returning stateside prematurely and without her dad. He had accepted a mistress from the locals according to their culture and so his wife left with their child, following mission board instructions. A few years later the tribe expelled him; for they now believed the Bible and considered him a phony for accepting their heathen cultural gift, against the clear teaching of Scripture.”28

The decision not to offend the locals resulted in a compromise of biblical principles. The Apostle Paul writes in 1 Corinthians chapters 5 and 9 that everything (that is not contrary to God) is permissible, but not everything is beneficial or constructive. These are negotiables. However, in his letter to the church in Rome (6:1b – 2b), he emphasizes there are also non-negotiables when he writes; “Shall we go on sinning so grace may increase? By no means! We died to sin . . .”

Elmer suggests a solution hat can help to save face for those from shame cultures when we encounter a situation that could result in compromise. Taking the one-down position means we make ourselves vulnerable to another person, indicating that without their help we are in danger of being shamed or losing face. In essence, we place ourselves in a position of debt or obligation to the other person, shifting the shame from them to us.29

As we continue to encounter these cross-cultural dilemmas, it is our responsibility not to offend while building relationships of trust. However, it is our obligation not to compromise biblical principles. There are alternatives that will not bring shame to others or result in acts of sin.

Concluding Thoughts

Protecting people’s dignity not only protects them from losing face but also preserves an openness and trust in the relationship. When westerners resist change, we wallow in myopic ignorance and forfeit the opportunity to learn from others and discover cultures that differ from our own limited experiences. When we resist change, we remain anchored in egocentrism, mistakenly believing that our cultural patterns are the best and only way.30

Organizations that take notice and adapt their strategies to the way individuals from cultures of shame say and do things will see results. However, as noted, it takes time to develop levels of trust that will result in the greatest breakthroughs and return on investments whether for a profit-oriented business organization or for a religious organization.

Addressing the cultural and communication issues that are different from ours will help us bridge the gap and promote long-term relationships. It is our responsibility to develop the cross-cultural skills if we want to be effective in this culture. We cannot change how they think or act, we must change how we think and act in their environment.  

End Notes

1Robert Rosen, Patricia Digh, Marshall Singer, and Carl Phillips, Global Literacies: Lessons on Business Leadership and National Cultures (New York; Simon and Schuster, 2000).
2Mohammad Ben Hussein 2008; “PM Censures ‘Culture of Shame.’” Jordan Times (Amman, Jordan). January 16, p n/a.
3Jamie Thonney, Michihiko Kanachi, Hiroyuki Sasaki, and Toshiteru Hatayama, Toshiteru 2006; Guild and Shame in Japan: Data Provided by the Thematic Apperception Test in Experimental Settings.” North American Journal of Psychology. Vol. 8, No. 1, p. 85-96.
4Terry E. Cooke 1991; “The Evolution of Financial Reporting in Japan: A Shame Culture Perspective.” Accounting, Business and Financial History. Vol. 1, No. 3, p. 251-277.
5Martha Hollander 2003; “Losses of Face: Rembrandt, Masaccio, and the Drama of Shame.” Social Research. Vol. 70, No. 4, p. 1372-1352, p. 1327.
6Stephen Greer 2008; “First Century Jewish Culture and Christianity.”, Accessed March 2008.
7David Konstan 2003; “Shame in Ancient Greece.” Social Research. Vol. 70, No. 4, p. 1031-1062.
8Rosen et al., p. 33.
9Cooke, p. 252.
10Bruce J. Malina, The New Testament World: Insights from Cultural Anthropology – Revised Edition. (Louisville; Westminster/John Knox Press, 1993).
11James Bowman 2002; “The Lost Sense of Honor.” Public Interest. Fall, p. 32-51.
12Cooke.; http:www.japan-guide.copm/e/e644.html. Accessed February 2008.
14Mia Doucet 2007; “Costly Western Assumptions.” Control Engineering. October, p. 32.
16Al St. Cyr, Head, Food Safety Education, AIB, interviewed by author, 18 February 2008.
18Elmer, Duane Cross-Cultural Conflict. (Downers Grove; InterVarsity Press, 1993).
19William B. Gudykunst and Young Yun Kim, Communication with Strategies – Fourth Edition. (New York; McGraw Hill Higher Education, 2003), p. 297.
22David A. deSilva Honor, Patronage, Kinship & Purity: Unlocking New Testament Culture. (Downers Grove; InterVarsity Press, 2000).
25Bruce Thomas 1994; The gospel for Shame Cultures: A Paradigm Shift. (first published in EQM)., Accessed March 2008.
27David A. deSilva Honor, Patronage, Kinship & Purity: Unlocking New Testament Culture. (Downers Grove; InterVarsity Press, 2000).
28Art TerMorshuizen, DSL Student Regent University, dialogue during group discussion, 25 March 2008.
29Elmer, Duane Cross-Cultural Conflict. (Downers Grove; InterVarsity Press, 1993).


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Ethics in the 21st Century

12 Dec

Ours is a world of nuclear giants and ethical infants. We know more about war than we know about peace, more about killing than we know about living. We have grasped the mystery of the atom and rejected the Sermon on the Mount.                                                                         General Omar N. Bradley

Use the Google search engine and do an inquiry of the word ‘ethics.’ What are your results? I recently conducted a quick query and received over 109,000,000 hits . . . over 109 MILLION! Look at some of the authors’ titles; Foundational Issues in Information Ethics, Ethical Behavior for Today’s Workplace, Ethics of Electronic Information in the 21st Century, Teaching Marketing Ethics in the 21st Century, If Good Ethics is Good Business, What’s the Problem? Articles address educators, businesses, the science community, the military, and the religious community. They address ethics issues within organizational divisions such as purchasing, marketing, finance, accounting, auditing. They talk about a code of business ethics, personal ethics, medical ethics, and Christian ethics. Writers challenge readers to ensure ethics and compliance programs are an integral part of the organization’s culture. The list goes on and on.

The Dilemma

There is not an organization or group untouched by writers concerned with issues of ethics. Yet with all this talk about its importance, we are still riddled with scandals in business, government, and the church. ENRON and TYCO, Nixon and Clinton, Ted Haggard and Catholic priests are but a few of the hundreds of examples where leaders failed ethically.

We are becoming, we think, a more enlightened generation. Information is readily available and there are so many resources at our fingertips to help us in our personal and professional lives. Why then is ethics still such a hot topic?

Look around your own organization . . . what do you see? Even though ethical behavior, honesty, and integrity are issues organizations routinely identify as top priorities, are all the activities of your organization’s members ethical? Even if you are a leader in a religious organization, are all your actions and the actions of your team members “above board?”

We may have the highest of intentions, but unless we are consciously aware of how we should act in situations that could cause us to compromise, we can become one of the statistics. The Conference Board, a membership organization providing management education to seasoned executives, published the following quote; “Unless ethical considerations are a part of every manager’s thought process . . . both the corporation and individual executives will fail to exercise the level of responsibility which good business and the law demands.” Let me rephrase this for Christian leaders, “Unless biblically ethical considerations are a part of every believer’s thought processes . . . both the church and the individual will fail to exercise the level of responsibility which the world expects and the Lord demands.”

Have we moved past the need for ethical guidelines?

Ira Lipman, Chairman of the Board and President of Guardsmark, Inc., discussed business ethics in the 21st century during a 2002 address at Bentley College. He noted that throughout history, principles of business ethics have developed in reaction to unfair practices, for example the rule of Hammurabi in ancient Babylon and God’s requirement for accurate weights and measurements as cited in the Book of Deuteronomy. Lipman, however, challenges us to move ahead of the curve and take a more proactive approach to ethics, striving to address foreseeable challenges before they arise. This commitment to ethics, which should be engraved in our hearts, is the foundation for excellence and still very relevant.

There is debate by some that ethics in the 21st century is evolving past what we previously expected. Ronald Duska supported this notion in his article, Aristotle: A Pre-modern Post-Modern? Implications for Business Ethics. He writes, “What the Postmodernists tell us is that disagreement among ethical theorists over issues is not a scandal . . . According to Postmoderns, there are no right views, just a number of perspectives. Deontological (ethical theory dealing with duties and rights) and utilitarian approaches are simply different overarching perspectives to be applied to other differing value perspectives.” He goes on to say that the business ethicist in a postmodern world cannot simply be an applier of principles but must first seek out and then seek to understand the perspectives of all, the marginalized as well as those in the mainstream. Only after all the various perspectives are understood can a judicious evaluation be determined that will contribute to human well being.

Duska’s perspective appears to mirror the concept of understanding the whole picture before making decisions and implementing actions. The conflict arises, however, if the situation could result in unethical behavior, choosing the ‘lesser evil.’ Lipman makes this challenging statement; “How do we develop sound judgment? It is learned from years of experience based on the values instilled by family, school, religion, and in other ways. Many of us believe that acting ethically carries out the will of a higher power. . . This environment can easily produce a young job-seeker with no background in ethics, regardless of his/her educational level or accomplishments.” Joanne B. Ciulla, in her book titled Ethics, the Heart of Leadership, makes a similar declaration; “What business ethics advocates is that people apply in the workplace those commonsensical rules and standards learned at home, from the lectern, and from the pulpit.”

Two thoughts quickly come to mind. First, we know the higher power is God. He established a code of ethics for us. Our responsibility is to “not be conformed to the world, but be transformed by the renewing of our minds (on a daily basis). Then (we) you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will” (Romans 12:2).

Second, we have entered a post-modern, post-Christian era. As such, the number of job seekers who have no concept of biblical truth, biblical values and ethics, is increasing. Many of us have read the data presented by George Barna. Following WW2, most Americans knew about God, knew the concept of sin, and knew something needed to be done to go to heaven. Now there are many who don’t know who Jesus is, why Easter and Christmas are celebrated, and do not have a concept of God or sin and why they need forgiveness. An increasing number do not believe there is one true God and, if there is, there are probably many ways to get to him in heaven when they die. As such, with no exposure to biblical teachings, their values and ethics are typically not in alignment with your organization’s Judeo-Christian values. How then do organizations ensure there is a congruence of values among all its members?

I appreciated what Barbara Strassberg stated; “Whether or not we trust God depends on our untestable faith; whether or not we trust human beings and can be trusted ourselves depends on our testable beliefs. Trust takes us to the realm of postmodern ethics, which demands from us responsibility for our choices and accountability for all of the consequences of our actions, including the unintended but predictable ones.” Including the unintended but predictable! How do we guard ourselves against the predictable unintended unethical actions?

Strategies to Implement

Whether you are a leader in a religious organization or a leader in a secular (non-religious) organization, the following principles will benefit you and the organization as it strives to conduct itself in an ethical manner.

Much is being written about organizations implementing ethics programs. Although ethical behavior, honesty and integrity are top priorities for your organization, the mere intent does not ensure you have eliminated the environment that allows or encourages unethical behavior. This, as Cynthia Vallario writes, is particularly true when constant pressure to perform and meet objectives drive members’ behavior. The culture of your organization may create risks. Because of pressure, even good people may act unethically when their breaking point is reached.

Even the most ‘moral’ individual is tempted. In 1 Corinthians 10:13, the Apostle Paul is giving the Christians in the church at Corinth some correction and encouragement when he writes, “No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.” We can expect to be tempted to act unethically. However, not only has God promised not to allow us to “be pushed passed our limit” (Message), he provides a way we can endure or escape the temptation without sinning.

There are practical measures organizations can take to assist its members to conduct themselves in an ethical manner. First, it is important that a code of ethics be written. These clear guidelines establish a standard of expectation that helps set the culture of the organization – it helps remove ambiguity and clarify acceptable behavior. This process must be orchestrated by the leaders so their values are indelibly imprinted in the code. As part of this process, it is important members at every level of the organization have opportunity to participate. David Fairhurst suggests members are given adequate time to understand the organization’s ethics statement and compare them with their own values to ensure there is alignment. It is then members engage and take ownership.

Second, design and implement an on-going ethics-training program. Similar to other on-going training in your organization, it is necessary to remind members periodically of the code of ethics and the expectations of appropriate behavior.

Third, establish oversight, accountability. You may need an ethics officer at your organization. Keith Darcy, executive director of the Ethics and Compliance Officer Association, contends, “Culture is not a six-month rollout or the ‘fad du jour;’ the scandals haven’t stopped.” Whether or not this position is part of your organization, the need of accountability cannot be over-emphasized. In addition, this individual must have autonomy, be strategically relevant and independent to be effective, ideally reporting to the CEO or audit committee.

Fourth, support and reward ethical behavior in the workplace, do not just punish violators. Besides communicating to all employees a positive message, it emphasizes the importance of ethical behavior. In conjunction with a system of support and reward, it is critical that, as Danley recommends, expectations, goals, or expected performance is not set at a level that requires “bending the rules.”   

I would add one additional comment; ensure there is no inconsistency of ethical standards requirements from the lowest paid worker to the highest paid executive. Any discrepancy will destroy the credibility of leadership by destroying trust.

Final Thoughts

As leaders, we are responsible for our own behavior as well as setting the example that inspires others to behave ethically. We must, as Danley writes, “be consistent in our responses to everyday events, dilemmas, and challenges, and base our actions on the standard of ethics that we have developed.” Besides being consistent, leaders must lead with integrity. Lorna Storr stresses that, “Integrity in all things precedes all else. The open demonstration of integrity is essential (in leadership); followers must be wholeheartedly convinced of their leaders’ integrity . . . Leaders with integrity inspire confidence in others . . . it is the most critical factor in building a committed team . . . Because leaders with integrity can be trusted to do what they say they are going to do.” As Northouse posits, “Ethics is central to leadership because of the nature of the process of influence, the need to engage followers to accomplish mutual goals, and the impact leaders have on establishing the organization’s values.”

There is no way we can anticipate all the different types of situations and dilemmas we will face as leaders in our organizations. Each day we are called on to make decisions and are presented with situations that require us to take action. We are responsible for our choices and accountable for all the consequences of our actions, including the unintended but predictable ones. This should give us reason to consider whether our decision is ethical – “is God’s will, his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

One last suggestion; I would encourage you to purchase Os Guinness’ study titled, When No One Sees, The Importance of Character in an Age of Image. It will challenge the way you think.

Bucaro, Frank C. 2007; If good ethics is good business, what’s the problem?
Ciulla, Joanne B. Ethics, the Heart of Leadership. Westport; Praeger Publishers, 2004.
Danley, Janet V. 2006; Ethical Behavior for Today’s Workplace. College and University Journal. Vol. 81, No. 2, p. 53-55.
Duska, Ronald F. 1993; Aristotle: A Pre-modern Post-modern” Implications for Business Ethics. Business Ethics Quarterly. Vol. 3, No. 3, p. 227-249.
Emiliani, M. L. 2000; The Oath of Management. Management Decision. Vol. 38, No. 4, p. 261-262.
Fairhurst, David 2006; Values are Just Like Fingerprints. Human Resources. October, p. 16.
Garofalo, Charles 2003; Toward a Global Ethic: Perspectives on Values, Training and Moral Agency. The International Journal of Public Sector Management. Vol. 16, No. 7, p. 490-501.
Grimshaw, Bob 2001; Ethical Issues and Agendas. Facilities. Vol. 19, No. ½, p. 43-51.
Himma, Kenneth Einar 2007; Foundational Issues in Information Ethics. Library Hi Tech. Vol. 25, No. 1, p. 79-94.
Knouse, Stephen B., Hill, Vanessa D., Hamilton III, J. Brooke 2007; Curves in the High Road: A Historical Analysis of the Development of American Business Codes of Ethics. Journal of Management History. Vol. 13, No. 1, p. 94-107.
Lipman, Ira A. 2002; The Sears Lectureship in Business Ethics at Bentley College: “Business Ethics in the 21st Century.” Business and Society Review. Vol. 107, No. 3, p. 381-389.
Loe, Terry W. and Ferrell, Linda 2001; Teaching Marketing Ethics in the 21st Century. Marketing Educational Review. Vol. 11, No. 2, p. 1-16.
McNamee, Michael John and Fleming, Scott 2007; Ethics Audits and Corporate Governance: The Case of Public Sector Sports Organizations. Journal of Business Ethics. Springer, p. 425-437.
Northouse, Peter G. Leadership Theory and Practice, Third Edition, Thousand Oaks; SAGE Publications, Inc., 2004.
Storr, Lorna 2004; Leading with Integrity: A Qualitative Research Study. Journal of Health Organization and Management. Vol. 18, No. 6, p. 415-434.
Statman, Meir 2007; Local Ethics in a Global World. Financial Analysts Journal. Vol. 63, No. 3, p. 32-41.
Strassberg, Barbara A. 2005; Fortieth Anniversary Symposium: Science, Religion, and Secularity in a Technological Society. Zygon. Vol. 40, No. 2, p. 307-322.
Vallario, Cynthia Waller 2007; Is Your Ethics Program Working? Financial Executive. May, p. 26-28.
Verschoor, Curtis C. 2007; How Good is Your Ethics and Compliance Program? Strategic Finance. April, p. 19-20.

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egocentric vs. God-centered personality

03 Dec

catherine marshall, in her book beyond ourselves, illustrates the difference between the egocentric personality and the God-centered personality. it is an eye-opener; a tough self-evaluation. where do you find yourself?

the egocentric personality

  • is intent on self glory
  • is concerned about other people’s opinions of self; craves admiration and popularity
  • is rigid, self-opinionated
  • cannot stand criticism
  • desires power over others; uses others for his own ends
  • wants ease; is self-indulgent
  • holds self-preservation of supreme importance
  • tries to be self-sufficient; has a practical atheism by which he feels he does not need God’s help
  • feels that life owes him certain things
  • is oversensitive; feelings easily hurt; nourishes resentments
  • springs back slowly, painfully from disappointments
  • trust in material possessions for security
  • indulges in self-pity when things go wrong
  • needs praise and publicity for his good deeds
  • is tolerant of, even blind to, his own sins’ appalled at the evil in others
  • is self-complacent; craves the peace of mind that relieves him of unwelcome responsibilities
  • loves those who love him


the God-centered personality

  • has true humility
  • is increasingly free from the necessity for the approval or praise of others
  • is flexible
  • handles criticism objectively; usually benefits from it
  • is devoted to the common good
  • ease given up when necessary; knows that many comforts precious to the self may have to go
  • is aware that you lose your life to find it
  • is acutely aware of his need of god in everyday life
  • realizes that life owes him nothing; that goodness cannot earn him anything
  • readily forgives others
  • has capacity to rise above disappointments and use them creatively
  • knows that security is in relationship to God, not in things
  • has objective resiliency when things go wrong
  • works well with others; can take second place
  • understands the potential evil in himself and lays it before God; is not shocked at any evil possibly in self or others
  • knows that warfare between good and evil will not allow undisturbed peace
  • can love the unlovely; has a feeling of oneness in God toward all humanity

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the quest for significance

01 Dec

i struggle with this . . . we all do to some degree. we all want to be recognized for what we contribute whether it is at our workplace, with our family and friends, at our church, or with other endeavors. we want others to know we are important . . . that our contribution matters . . . that we matter.

there is nothing wrong with wanting to be appreciated or recognized. the dilemma arises when our quest for significance leads to idolatry . . . the propensity to ‘do what we do’ because of the praise we receive from others and their desire to be associated with us.

king nebuchadnezzar (daniel 3-4) took this to the extreme when he made an image of gold and demanded all fall down and worship it. he later boasts that the great babylon is a tribute to his mighty power and for the glory of his majesty. while the words are still on his lips, his dream was fulfilled. for the next twelve months he is driven from people, eats grass like cattle, his hair grows long, and his nails look like the claws of a bird. his sanity returns when he acknowledges all praise and glory are God’s. and for those who walk in pride HE (God) is able to humble.

everything we have and everything we are is because of the grace and mercy of God. our meaning in life – our significance – does not come because of what we do, but because of whose we are . . .


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