I don't meet many leaders who at the end of the day don't claim that they want the best results for the organization or team they lead. To the best of their ability, their motivations are reasonable (who of us knows all of our real motivations?). However, I do meet leaders whose means of achieving their desired ends do not meet the ethical standards that we would want in the ministry world.
As leaders, we spend considerable time thinking about where we want to lead our organizations. Wise leaders spend an equal amount of time thinking through how they get to those goals and that their means are as noble as their goals. If we sacrifice the means for the ends we have sacrificed our credibility and often our personal ethics. Or, we skate the ethical edge.
The challenge for leaders in this are several.
First, leaders are focused on the end goals. If the end goals are right and healthy all is good. That focus, however, can manifest itself in impatience to get where we want to go quickly and quickly often means cutting corners. Those corners may be the violation of people - using them instead of serving them, or ethics or finances or any number of ways we can get to where we want to go. Getting to the right place is only one half of the equation. Getting there in a healthy manner is the other half.
Second, leaders are usually pragmatic. In itself this is a good thing and a mark of a leader. There are enough visionary leaders who don't know how to get from point A to point B to point C. However, there are pragmatic decisions and strategies that are ethical and healthy and pragmatic decisions that work but which are not ethical or healthy. Pragmatism that violates ethical standards, violates people or is simply unwise is unhealthy and will undermine the moral authority of leaders.
Third, leaders are often impatient. On one hand this can be healthy because without healthy impatience, nothing important is likely to get done. Inertia is ubiquitous since people like the predictable and comfortable while leaders should bring a sense of urgency to their organization. On the other hand, impatience can cause leaders to push faster and harder than the organization can reasonably move. Under pressure, people start using other people or choose to look away from questionable decisions or strategies under the guise of achieving our ends and getting there quickly.
The best leaders monitor carefully the ends they pursue and the means that the organization uses to meet those ends. Both are equally important and both require a great deal of thought and diligence. No ends, however noble, are worthy of means that do not meet the same noble and ethical standards.
Here are some questions leaders should ask all the time regarding the means to their ends:
1. Am I using people or serving and leading people?
2. Is there anything we do that skirts ethical boundaries or could look to others like we are?
3. Do we always tell the truth no matter what?
4. If we had to open our financial books to Jesus, would He be OK with what he sees? Would those around us?
5. Do we have an open and candid atmosphere where others can ask questions, question decisions or share concerns?
6. Do I as a leader have any twinges of conscience regarding how we do what we do?
7. Do I have a hard time explaining my strategies or decisions to others and having them understand and accept them?
8. Am I OK if someone questions me on an ethical, financial or staff matters?