THE GOLDEN RULE
Cynics believe that Jesus’ words, ‘‘Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,’’ are an ideal that belongs only in an ‘‘ideal environment,’’ such as a Sunday School or monastery. They argue that the real ‘‘Golden Rules’’ of business are ‘‘Them that has the gold makes the rules,’’ and ‘‘Do unto others before they can do unto you.’’
No one would pretend that combining compassion and results- orientation is easy to achieve, particularly if short-term results are paramount. But a number of modern business leaders have found that without compassion and kindness to employees, customers, suppliers, and even competitors, short-term results can’t be maintained into the long-term. And perhaps more important, without kindness and personal consideration the workplace becomes a mechanistic environment in which employees (and managers) become dispirited. Performance lags, many ‘‘retire on the job’’ or become bitter, and others go off in search of a more ‘‘human’’ environment.
OBSTACLES: TESTS OF PURPOSE
But few great purposes are accomplished without obstacles or opposition. Nehemiah encountered both. The colonial officials in Jerusalem ridiculed and opposed Nehemiah’s efforts to rebuild the wall. Tobiah the Ammonite chortled, ‘‘What they are building—if even a fox climbed up on it, he would break down their wall of stones.’’ And Sanballat the Horonite chimed in, ‘‘What are those feeble Jews doing? . . . Can they bring the stones back to life from those heaps of rubble— burned as they are?’’ (Neh. 4:2–3) Which just goes to show you that if your purpose is good and worthwhile, you will probably have some vocal opponents.
Nehemiah knew that he alone could not accomplish his purpose of rebuilding the wall; he needed to strengthen the purpose of the entire team. This he did by reminding them that they were not just rebuilding a wall, they were rebuilding and defending their families and a nation. He posted them by families, with their swords, spears, and bows. ‘‘After I looked things over, I stood up and said to . . . the people, ‘Don’t be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome.
MODERN LEADERS, TIMELESS PURPOSE
Fortunately, many modern companies have purposes that sustain them, perhaps not as strongly as Daniel’s purpose, but with more staying power than Nebuchednezzar’s. These purposes often go far beyond the mere provision of a product or service. Herman Miller’s former chairman, Max De Pree wrote, ‘‘My goal is that when people look at us . . . not as a corporation but as a group of people working intimately within a covenantal relationship, they’ll say, ‘These folks are a gift to the spirit.’ ’’ His successor, J. Kermit Campbell, adds that the company’s true mission is not to create products but to ‘‘liberate human spirit.’’
PURPOSE MEANS COMMITMENT TO RIGHT PRIORITIES
‘‘What good is it if a man gains the world but forfeits his soul?’’ This quote from Matthew reminds us that for many leaders and companies, the ultimate success is not just in ‘‘the numbers’’ or even the spread of a radical new product or concept. Anita Roddick, CEO of The Body Shop, felt that a purpose of being merely ‘‘the biggest or the most profitable’’ would not sustain her company or inspire the employees to reach the ambitious goals the company has attained.
All of us need a purpose. Work without purpose (even if it takes great skill) can become mindless, heartless drudgery. Add purpose, even to so-called grunt work, and our work lives take on an expanded, even inspired dimension.
Noah, a novice shipbuilder if ever there was one, was spurred on by an ennobling purpose—the knowledge that he was going to save enough of the sinful world so that it could continue to survive after most catastrophic natural disaster it had ever experienced.
Abraham’s purpose was to establish and spread the radical belief that there was one God whose spirit permeated and unified the entire universe. Until his time, the universe was thought to be split into many compartments, each of which had its own reigning force or ‘‘god
Moses’ great goal was to lead the Hebrews out of Egyptian slavery to the edge of the Promised Land. Joshua’s goal was to lead them in. Solomon’s was to build a temple, not for his own glory, but for the glory of a higher power and purpose. And the goal of the prophets was that each in his own way would keep an entire nation from straying from its original purpose.
WHO’S WATCHING, ANYWAY?
In an old folk tale, a farmer tells his hired man to take a chicken and kill it ‘‘where no one can see.’’ The hired man returns in a few hours with a live chicken. ‘‘Why didn’t you kill it?’’ asks the farmer. ‘‘Everywhere I go, the chicken sees,’’ answers the hired man.
Behind this humorous story is a subtle message: Someone is always watching, even if it is only the victim, the perpetrator, or the perpetrator’s conscience. King David’s forces were aligned against the forces of his own son, Absalom, who was trying to take over his father’s throne a few years before the father was ready to hand it over. (Sounds like a typical family business.) David commanded his troops, ‘‘Be gentle with the young man Absalom for my sake.’’ (2 Sam. 5:5) Absalom, riding his mule, got his hair caught in a tree and was hanging by it when a common foot soldier from David’s side came upon him, but did not harm him. He reported this to his commander, Joab: