There is a lot of current publicity about leaders and their faith. “They are a changed person” … “they have said sorry and should be forgiven because of their new-found faith”, etc. These are just a couple of phrases I’ve heard recently.
Does it matter if a leader has a personal faith or not? I’ll discuss this in the context of secular leaders and not “leaders of faith”.
To many, having a religious faith is entirely a personal matter. It shouldn’t make a difference to other people because it isn’t relevant to the workplace. Some leaders who have faith convictions are very public about it, some keep it compartmentalized away from their work, and others are able to develop congruence between their work and their faith.
The difficulty that many have with faith is when leaders who profess to be impacted by a deep moral and virtuous conviction behave in ways that entirely contradict this. To many this is hypocritical and makes faith irrelevant. There a verse in the bible that says “by their fruits you shall know them”. People admire leaders who walk the walk, not just talk it! In these instances, any statement from an errant leader about their personal faith brings them into disrepute or is seen by others as a way of just trying to impact faith communities.
Having worked in cultures with dominant faiths of Christianity, Islam and Hinduism, I have come across leaders who admirably display the characteristics of their faith. I have also come across those who should really just be honest and say that their faith hasn’t impacted their personal values or morals at all.
A leader, who is able to live a life of integrity, kindness and mercy, as well as be an exemplary leader of business and people, is definitely someone to be admired. I would argue that a leader like this is one of the best! Combining excellence in commercial acumen, judgment and insight with a nature impacted by their faith convictions is a special combination. I am of course assuming that faith convictions are ones that uplift humanity, have a reverence and desire for good, and not ones that divide, slander or hurt others.
A leader has a right to a personal faith just as much as anyone. They also need to understand how to value and respect others with no faith or with different faiths. Even if a person’s faith is monotheistic, I have seen leaders who can live faithful to their beliefs and demonstrate an inclusion and generosity to others which shows the best of their faith and not the exclusivity of it.
For some people faith is irrelevant. You can be morally good and demonstrate integrity without a faith. Bringing faith into an evaluation of someone else’s character, performance or attitude, is just a diversion from baseline standards which should apply to everyone.
Personal faith it seems can be an uplifting virtue, a meaningless distraction or a reason for ridicule. Whether you have a personal faith or not, leaders should reach for the highest principles of life to bring out the best in others and themselves.