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When our moral leaders are strong, a lot goes right. But what happens when they fail? Episode 62 of Faithful on the Clock discusses why the loss of moral leaders can be so devastating and encourages you to use five strategies for becoming a moral leader in their place.
[00:33] - Summary of the Dan Price scandal as inspiration for the episode
[02:53] - Romans 3 reminds us that nobody is righteous, as do the stories of David, Abraham, and Peter. It’s a powerful reminder that we shouldn’t expect perfection or leap into cancel culture, even as we hold high standards.
[04:24] - A failure in moral leadership leaves a gap that has to be filled. You have the potential to fill that gap. There are five recommendations I have for doing so.
[05:46] - Recommendation 1: Take a hard look at your beliefs and match them to your vision, procedures, and approvals.
[06:12] - Recommendation 2: Find some people who can hold you accountable.
[06:35] - Recommendation 3: Be as public and transparent as possible.
[07:07] - Recommendation 4: Enforce whatever disciplinary policies you have consistently.
[07:34] - Recommendation 5: Go all in on extreme ownership to ensure a multi-generational legacy with your morals.
[08:37] - Be consistent as you can with making your words and behavior match to build the trust necessary for people to start seeing you as a moral person. Be compassionate and forgiving to yourself along the way, as well, and worry more about whether you’re willing than whether you’re ready.
Having moral leaders and role models is essential, but scandals are common in business. The latest that involved Dan Price was particularly challenging because he had such a reputation as a moral leader.
Because everyone has fallen short of the glory of God, we should not expect perfection from our moral leaders. This doesn’t mean we can’t have high standards. It just means that we have to recognize that learning is a lifelong process and that people can be genuinely remorseful for the mistakes they make.
When moral leaders fail, they leave behind a serious gap. You can be the one to step up and fill that gap.
There are five strategies you can use to restore and build trust after a so-called “moral” leader has messed up: These include evaluating your core beliefs and how they align with your operations, finding accountability buddies/groups, being public and transparent, strictly enforcing disciplinary policies, and going all in on extreme ownership.
Restoring/Building trust after a moral failing requires consistency in terms of matching your words and behavior. But again, don’t expect perfection. You’re human. Just do the best you can and worry about whether your heart is willing.
Walk through each of the five strategies presented in the show for building trust and establishing yourself as a moral leader. For each strategy, come up with a viable action plan for implementation.
What’s coming up next:
With burnout becoming increasingly problematic, it’s more and more common to hear the advice to ask for help when necessary. But sometimes, requests just get silence. Episode 63 of Faithful on the Clock explains why this can happen and what to do about it.
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Welcome back to the Faithful on the Clock podcast, everybody! This is the show where I bend over backward to get your faith and work aligned. I’m your host, Wanda Thibodeaux, and today’s topic is a biggie. We’re pulling the cover off failures in moral leadership. So, what do you do when the people you see as role models in your office or industry do negative or unChristian things? Let’s get started.
All right. So I don’t think it’s any big secret that scandals happen in business. And that’s really, I think it’s unfortunate, but that’s the reality we live in. So I just wanna put that out there kind of to acknowledge that failures in moral leadership, I mean, this is an ongoing, universal problem that we see. But what put me over the edge to do this episode is that, back in August, Dan Price made the headlines. And if you don’t know who Dan Price is, he was the CEO of Gravity Payments. And a lot of big names and organizations had come out and labeled him as being this great moral guy, you know, this, and I kid you not, as the best boss in America. And he had this huge social media following, and he would tweet about work and how to treat employees. And I will admit I was one of the people who, I followed him. Because it was just so nice to see all that positive stuff from somebody who had some authority. Like, I like that. That’s the kind of stuff I try to focus on. But in August, the New York Times ran this expose piece about him, and in that piece, you know, come to find out, he’d been having all kinds of legal troubles, there were allegations of abuse and assault and just, lots of not good things. I’ll go ahead and put that in the show notes. But, so I read that piece, and I’ll be very honest, like, it took the wind out of my sails a little bit. Because I feel like there aren’t a ton of good examples of role models out there. I mean, you’ve got tons of people who can say they’re successful professionally. But to really label them as moral, I think they’re just a rare breed. And so, I don’t know, it was kind of painful to see. I don’t know if any of you out there like Star Wars or not, but I do, and I just, I just kind of played that scene from the movie where Annakin Skywalker turns to the dark side. You know, it felt like I’d just lost a hero to something really black, and it wasn’t a good feeling. So I knew I needed to talk about this because, like I said, having someone to look up to, having a good role model, that is so important if you’re going to make it. Like, you need a picture in front of you, something to aspire to, and I just kept thinking, man, what do we do when we don’t have that, when these so-called moral leaders end up showing us they’re not who we thought they were?
So the first thing I’d like to give you is Romans 3, which talks about how nobody is really righteous. And more specifically, verse 23 says, “For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” And I encourage you to reflect on that, because I think part of the issue when Price or somebody like that messes up is that we put this huge cloak of perfectionism on them. Like, we expect them not to make a single mistake or that somehow they’re just gonna be squeaky clean. And the truth is that none of us can do that. Even people like King David, you know, he went out and had Bathsheeba’s husband killed so he could sleep with her. We see Abraham lie about Sarah being his wife. Peter denied Jesus three times. And so even the people who we as Christians point out as being godly, they had really serious flaws. They weren’t perfect. And so I think it’s important to just step back and think about what the expectation really is. And that doesn’t mean you don’t keep your standards high, right? Like you don’t just give people a bunch of room to sin and do whatever they feel like. But you can understand that learning is something we do our entire lives. And even the best of us, we’re only human. And so when you look for a role model, you wanna have that compassion and, you know, rather than just get wrapped up in all of this cancel culture stuff, you try to focus on whether or not that person is remorseful and whether or not they’re growing along the way. So that’s the first thing.
But then the second thing is, when these quote unquote “moral” leaders fail, they leave a real gap. And all of the leadership that they might have done, you know, nobody’s at the helm anymore. And if you don’t want the ship to crash, well, then somebody has to step up and become the new captain. You can’t just have nobody there. And here’s the thing. You can be the one to fill that gap. I know, I know, you might not feel like it. You might be in the absolute lowest position in your business and be like, “Well, I’m not a leader.” You might not feel like you’re smart enough or ready. But I’m telling you, God is the King of the underdog. He makes leaders out of the so-called nobodys all of the time. If you look at the story of Moses in Exodus, in particular, you know, God tells Him, “I’ll give you what you need. I’ll tell you what to say. I’ll make sure your brother’s there to help.” He basically takes away every excuse Moses has. So when you see somebody mess up, yes, find someone else to lean on. But I’ll just challenge you to think about what you can do to give people the moral example that they need. And I laid out a few tips in a piece that was just published on Strixus, and again, I’ll link to that so you’ve got a cheat sheet. But these are my five big recommendations, OK? And they all really have to sit on good transparency and communication.
So first, just take a hard look at your beliefs. I mean, we all have core philosophies and ideas. And some of those might be subconscious. Some of them, we might be quite aware of. But there shouldn’t be a gap between your core beliefs and what your company actually does. So check that everything that underpins your company actually shows up in your vision. It should show up in every single procedure or approval.
Then find some people who can hold you accountable. You know, if you don’t have anybody to do that, it’s really easy to just skip out on stuff you’ve said and to get into the weeds. But if you have some individuals or a group who can check in and see how you’re progressing, people who can encourage you and give you advice, you’re gonna feel more obligated not to be wishy-washy and to follow through.
Thirdly, be as public and transparent as you can. I have said this before, but the only thing secrecy does is create distrust. And of course, there are gonna be some things you can’t disclose, and you have to be careful to share information at the right time. But giving people access to data shows that you trust them to use that data in good ways. It says you’ve got no problem with them taking a look at that and comparing it to what you’re really doing. Again, that’s another source of accountability for you.
Then, make sure you enforce whatever disciplinary policies you’ve got on the books. Because what you have to understand is that, the minute you pick and choose when to enforce, you create this gray area about how valuable the beliefs behind those policies are. So yes, you want to leave room in those policies for people to learn. But how you’re going to guide them through that learning process shouldn’t be questionable.
And then finally, go all in on extreme ownership. And if you haven’t heard of extreme ownership, it’s just this idea that everyone takes responsibility not just for themselves, but for everyone else, too. Because you understand that the team is only as strong as the weakest link. You understand that everybody has to do their part and that everybody has value. But it connects really strongly to moral leadership in terms of the traditional career ladder. The idea is that people who start at the bottom might work hard and work their way up so that, one day, they’re the next CEO. So if you want to keep the original morals of the company going in a generational way, you have to assume that anybody in the business eventually could take the helm someday. You have to make an effort and make sure everybody’s keeping everybody on the same page so that later on, when it comes time to have a change in leadership, a new executive or CEO can step into that role without disrupting what the company does and stands for.
So those are my five big tips for kind of stepping up when people need you as a moral leader, for how you can show you’re trustworthy even when others around you might leave a lot to be desired. And as you try to apply them, the big takeaway is that, if you want people to trust you and see you as a moral person, you have to be consistent in terms of making your words and behavior match. But that said, please realize that that piece that I gave you about not expecting perfection, about being a little compassionate and forgiving, you have to apply that to yourself. You’re not gonna get 100 percent consistency, and that’s OK. Nobody can. You just do your best and close the gap as much as you humanly can. And remember, don’t worry about whether you’re ready. God knows if you’re ready. Just worry about whether you’re willing.
So on that note, let’s just take a few seconds to talk to God together.
Lord, as I have read my Bible, I know there have been times when people disappointed you. A lotta times. But I give thanks right now that you never give up. And I thank you for just seeing the bigger picture, for equipping us with the right stuff at the right time. I pray that you will give everyone out there the courage to be the kind of leader they hope others will be, and that you’ll guide whatever decisions they have to make along the way. And I just pray that everyone out there, even if they feel alone or like there’s nobody to look up to, we always have a role model in Your Son. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.
Whew! So OK. I hope that this all inspires you to go out and do good things, that it just fills you with a conviction about never backing down on the good stuff. We need you on the field, not on the sidelines, OK? So for the next show, I’m gonna talk about how to ask for help in the right way. Sometimes we do that and we just hear crickets, right? So I’ll show you how to overcome that and get some real results. Sign up for our email list at faithfulontheclock.captivate.fm so you know exactly when that goes live, and until next time, be blessed.
Faithful on the Clock is a podcast meant to get your Christian faith and work aligned. You won’t find mantras or hacks here--just scripture-based insights to help you grow yourself, your company, and your relationship with God. If you want out of the worldly hamster wheel and want to work with purpose, then this is the show for you. Hosted by freelance business writer Wanda Thibodeaux.
Wanda Marie Thibodeaux is a freelance writer based in Eagan, MN. Since 2006, she has worked with a full range of clients to create website landing pages, product descriptions, articles, professional letters, and other content. She also served as a daily columnist at Inc.com for three years, where she specialized in content on business leadership, psychology, neuroscience, and behavior.
Currently, Thibodeaux accepts clients through her website, Takingdictation.com. She is especially interested in motivational psychology, self-development, and mental health.