Why dignity? I often am asked this question and further, how does dignity relate to leadership and workplace culture?
Understanding dignity means to acknowledge and recognize the inherent worth of every human being. Because of this, everything we do, especially leadership, is an opportunity to make significant impact.
Here is how it works.
- God made us in his image. (Every single person, which means humans, is imbued with worth that comes from our Creator.)
- God made us to represent this good God to his Creation. (Not just the earth, but also the other image bearers.)
- As Christians, our calling is to represent Jesus and his kingdom through his Spirit using the different gifts the Spirit manifests. (One of the gifts is leadership.)
Our Primary Job
In light of this, what is our primary purpose as Christian leaders?
It isn’t to run better meetings, involve our stakeholders in decision-making, or ensure our organizations are on mission. Those things can be critical within our vocation, but they are not our primary job.
Our primary ‘job’ is to bask in our loving God’s goodness, grace, mercy, and forgiveness and learn what it means to be his children, helping others do the same. Our job is to lead ourselves by embracing our identity; to embrace dignity.
Ignoring dignity causes problems.
Ignoring dignity causes problems. We start to believe we must have all the answers and be all things to everyone.
Have you ever experienced someone talking over you during a meeting, not listening to you or simply ignoring your suggestions? Out of fear of making mistakes, the focus becomes doing the right things instead of developing character.
Organizations are happy to have leaders who look good and lead well, but often settle for charisma over character. Unfortunately, leaders and organizations violate their own dignity by doing so.
It is a dangerous dynamic that ends in moral failures, ethical violations, and a hurting world wondering what on earth is wrong with Christians.
The Dignity Gap
We fall into a dignity gap.
What do I mean by that? I mean that the gap between what God says is true about us and how we think, feel and act. As a result, we lose sight of who we are and how unbelievably beautiful and valuable the people around us are. We don’t fulfill the Great Commandment (love God, love others), the Great Commission (go and make disciples, teach, baptize), or the imperative to love our enemies (even those we don’t like or agree with).
It is easy to think, “We all fall into this gap. So what? We are doing the best we can. No one is perfect. I want to put food on the table and be a good person.”
While these things are true, they don’t excuse us from the highest calling imparted to Creation: To be a Christian – especially a Christian leader.
The Way Forward
I want to posit a simple way forward.
We must recognize, remember and respond.
We must recognize, remember and respond. Recognize our dignity violations. Remember our dignity. Respond by giving dignity its proper place.
- Recognize when we are chasing after the wrong things. Check our hearts and our spirits. Are we growing in grace? Are we experiencing and bringing peace to each person with whom we interact? Would you be pleased if those in your charge practiced your spirituality? Is your character intentionally formed into the image of his Son? Are you allowing God to use the people and experiences at work to develop and mold you into Christ-likeness? Are you worshipping with God’s people regularly? Are you angry and lacking Christ’s peace, joy, and forgiveness? These and other questions are helpful tools to help us recognize where our focus lies.
- Remember that you are Christ’s, and he is yours. Spend time reading, thinking, and sharing about the grace and mercy of God in your life. How has God withheld punishment from you? How has God blessed you in ways you couldn’t have expected?
- Respond to God’s goodness and mercy by living and leading in dignity. Respond by validating the dignity of those around you. Show appreciation for them in ways that speak to them (not you). Validate their concerns. Listen. Listen. Listen. Give them the benefit of the doubt and do the same for yourself. Treat them as if they are made in God’s image.
Recognizing, remembering, and responding to dignity can transform leaders and workplaces. Making dignity the foundation of relationships and organizations creates environments where people want to work, and leaders want to use their God-given gifts to lead.
Bob Fabey is the founder of Fabey Insights, and author of The Dignity Gap (Free Agent Press, March 8, 2023). For more than 20 years, he has trained leaders across the globe. His relatable approach to life and the scriptures makes his teaching practical and compelling with a dash of humor! Learn more about his dignity based training at www.fabeyinsights.com.
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