If you are the leader of a company, do you accommodate high-performing workers who are intent on doing things their way? Such an operating culture is the opposite of the servant leadership Christ has called Christian business leaders to model and promote. This article shows how to respond when a high-performing worker threatens the company's unity and teamwork.

2014. 4 pages.

Are You a Leader or a Hostage?

As a top executive, have you accommodated high-performing employees that insist on doing things their way - refusing to follow the shared company policies and protocols- in spite of the damage it does to the overall organization?

Perhaps you, as the leader of the company, are so intent on exercising your positional prerogatives that you also regularly take such liberties. If so, no one would ever confuse your workplace as a ‘team-first' environment and, in either case, these aren't great places to work. In fact, when the boss acts this way, it simply invites others to behave similarly, defeating any chance to breed a winning culture based on the level of trust and shared values where the very best ‘volunteer' participants can grow and thrive.

When the anger, threats, defensiveness, and arrogance of ‘top performers' and leaders are allowed as special freedoms granted to them due to their special status as valuable experts or indispensable assets, we sow the seeds of cynicism, anarchy, and long-term company decline.

For senior Christian business leaders, such an operating culture represents the opposite of the servant leadership Christ has called us to model and promote.

If you're the CEO and either carry this contagious disease or turn a blind eye to it with key individuals, it's time to look in the mirror and step up to make necessary corrections. The data is in!

In spite of a few notorious ‘celebrity' CEOs who serve as the exceptions that prove the rule, trustworthy servant leaders who lead in a humble but firm, team-first manner (aka Good to Great's ‘Level 5 Leaders') are generally able to radically outperform their peers.

Next, think about your direct reports and most indispensable employees. If any of them fit this same untouchable, ‘grenade thrower' profile, and you can't imagine conducting business without them, you're facing a real-time personal leadership dilemma. Your fear or hesitancy to confront the issue erodes your leadership, damages the individual in question, hurts your team, and holds the entire company hostage in a way that does long-term damage to the overall health of your organization and its growth prospects.

Fear, habits, and procrastination in resolving these poisonous cultural situations inevitably leads to much bigger losses than we'd experience by acting decisively to confront the issue along the way. The fact is, the guilty party might be willing to reform, assuming we're committed to providing remedial help and accountability. The trust and respect of our stakeholders (i.e., employees, customers, suppliers, and trade associates) for our leadership and company hangs in the balance.

As Christian business leaders, we've accepted a sacred trust as followers of Christ called to lead businesses in a way that honors Him. Our actions as stewards of the businesses He has entrusted to us, should reflect His values and character. When team trust and company core principles are violated by a supposedly ‘untouchable' top performer and we choose not to take corrective action, long-term damage to our spiritual authority and capacity to lead for maximum impact (both now and for eternity) has taken place.

Jesus was not a respecter of persons and was quick to "call a spade a spade" no matter the position or standing of the person in question. He was quick to call them to high expectations based on objective truth and did so with the person's eternal best and highest outcome in mind, instructing them to leave their sin, make corrections, or serve God and others more fully. For leaders, tolerating compromise and mistakenly wanting to be "nice" or avoid conflict while everyone else watches and waits is deadly to our efforts to build a God-honoring workplace.

The Bible says, "When the sentence for a crime is not quickly carried out, people's hearts are filled with schemes to do wrong." (Ecclesiastes 8:11)

So, what's the best way to free yourself and regain your position as a leader? We should respond as we so often see Jesus and Paul respond in the New Testament: by speaking the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15).

Paul said, "Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body." (Ephesians 4:25)

The next time someone threatens your company's unity and teamwork by presuming that they are above known company policies, processes, and core principles, try the following:

  • Express your appreciation for the contribution they've made, then clearly state those behaviors inconsistent with the company's ‘team first' values, core principles and operational protocols - and why they will not be tolerated.
  • Ask the employee for constructive ideas on how to fix the problem in a way that would still allow them to be successful.
  • Require a written action plan with well-defined accountability for remediating the situation.
  • Implement a periodic review (e.g., annual, quarterly) in which you openly engage with each of your management team members to examine such areas of interpersonal or team challenges.
  • Generate periodic objective/anonymous/360 degree survey feedback from team members, suppliers and clients to help you identify particular areas of weakness, confusion, challenge or risk.

Sometimes, when our businesses are growing and certain key individuals seem critical to our success, doing the right thing can be hard; but embracing the alternative path is usually harder still!

In fact, when key people are challenged to rise above their self-serving habits to operate at the next level in a way that actually produces a healthy company culture, they benefit along with everyone else. We've experienced many instances within C12 where such employees respond favorably and are ultimately thankful for the boss caring enough to confront them and help them grow. Even when we are not met with such a positive response, remember that the rest of the watching organization is keenly aware, cheering us on, and quite encouraged to work in a place where the bosses "walk their talk".

Everyone is thankful for an environment where they can work for more than just a paycheck. Casting a worthy and shared company vision, purpose, and core values is a leader's fundamental responsibility. For Christian CEOs, the basis for such an environment is applied Biblical wisdom where a general sensibility of serving Christ by others well in His name exists as our top priority. This is impossible when we allow prima donnas to take center stage.

As stewards, leading a company for God, it is our responsibility to eliminate the distraction of renegade employees, while maximizing team performance to excellently serve our stakeholders and share the love of Christ with those we touch through business. It is impossible to motivate others under our charge to reach for this ultimate goal if we are unwilling to personally live and lead according to these high standards.

At the end of the day, our work is a major part of our 24/7 worship under the Lordship of Christ.

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters... Colossians 3:23.

...let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heavenMatthew 5:16.

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