In business or professional interactions, what are the two topics you are told to avoid? You guessed it, religion and politics. In fact, the idea that religion should be confined to one’s personal life is heard from nearly every corner of society. Religion is banned from schools, it’s considered taboo in politics, and most think it has no place in business. Despite this being a ridiculous notion, most of us have tacitly agreed to its universal truthfulness. I’m here to tell you that in all these areas, and specifically business, nothing could be farther from the truth. Now before you write me off as a crazy, right-wing fundamentalist, please here me out.
When I use the word religion, what I mean is one’s worldview, i.e. your view of reality. A worldview is basically your fundamental beliefs about where we came from, why we are here, and how we should act (origins, purpose, and morality). These are beliefs that every person has, beliefs that we all use to make sense of life, make decisions, etc. What we believe is true about the nature of reality has a PROFOUND effect on how we live. Conversely, the way someone lives shows you a great deal about what they believe.
Now what does this have to do with business? EVERYTHING!
As a business owner or leader, you are tasked with something you cannot delegate: influencing the mission, values, and goals of the organization. You must communicate the “worldview” of the firm. Why does it exist? What will it accomplish? What principles will guide it? You have the sole responsibility of shaping the soul of the company. The most fundament questions your company must ask itself are inherently religious or worldview questions.
As a business owner, God has given you a unique platform from which to declare truth to the marketplace and your team. You are not telling your team how to worship or serve God per se, something America’s founders referred to as sectarian or denominational issues. Rather, you are declaring your worldview from your business platform and inviting others to participate in that mission. If your sole mission is to make money, that communicates a message that money is the sole prize of business. If you hold fast to company values such as integrity and excellence, you communicate to the world that those values are right and true and worth living for.
Now I can already hear your objections. Why not just skip the worldview/truth talk and focus on success and profit. Well, there are two reasons you can’t avoid this conversation.
First, whatever you make the mission, values, and goals of your organization, that in and of itself sends a message to everyone. It tells your team and the marketplace what you value and hold as true and good. It may be hidden, but the message is sent nonetheless.
Second, human beings are inherently “religious and moral” beings. We are hard wired to know and long for what is good and true. We want to serve a greater good. We desire to live for a cause bigger than ourselves. But such a cause can only be given in light of a worldview, i.e. what is true and right about the world. And such a cause is the only thing that can unite a company to achieve something great.
Here these words of our 1st President, George Washington, on the issue of morality and religion as it pertains to political prosperity:
"Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism, who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties of men and citizens...Let it simply be asked: Where is the security for property, for reputation, for life, if the sense of religious obligation desert the oaths which are the instruments of investigation in courts of justice? And let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle."
Prosperity, both politically and in business, spring from a right view of the world, moral virtue, and living for righteous causes. If you want a team that is engaged, passionate, excellent, and service-oriented, you must inspire them with what is right and true. Your message must resonate with them, bringing to life what is hibernating below the surface of their minds and hearts.
Don’t pretend that “religion” has no place in your business. Don’t attempt to create a soul-less firm. You already have a mission, values, and goals that are sending a message to your team and the marketplace. I would just challenge you to have the guts to be explicit about that message. People are starving to follow leaders with such passion. The bad reputation of “greedy big business” can only be erased by convictional leaders. Will that be you?