In-Sight: Building a “Human” Organization

The information and evidence just keeps pouring in.  The exemplary leaders of our time are emphasizing “the human factor” in the way they lead and organize.  They are responding to what they believe to be an over emphasis upon impersonal concepts like the “systems approach” and what some have called “the robotization” of business and professional life.

The wave of the future is clearly a move back toward a more “people oriented” culture in corporations.  A recent article in Fast Company magazine was written by a CEO who is using Maslow’s hierarchy of needs to define and direct his leadership.

Christian organizations should be ahead of the game on this, but unfortunately (from a sociological standpoint) we are often actually “behind the curve” on what we should actually be setting the pace for.  We are seeing Christian institutions still characterized by high-control, regulatory, and “cut to the chase” operational styles—which the new leaders of our day are rejecting outright.

When an institution is essentially viewed as a “machine,” the operational style is to replace, rather than renew.  When the institution is a “body,” the style of leadership is one of healing before it’s one of severance.  Without this, colleagues are more “parts” than “people.”

It’s ironic that the fallen world sees this better than we Christians do sometimes, as leaders in business and industry use words like “soul” and “spirit.”   The emerging question that leaders are asking these days to their colleagues is, “What do you need to thrive?”  The issue is building a “human” organization—not a “machine.” From a Christian standpoint it is incarnating Jesus’ mission to be one of offering “abundant life”—and starting to do it with those closest to us.

The emphasis is upon being a “life-giving culture”—beginning within the day-to-day environment, before any attempt is made to presume to offer life to others.  In the Wesleyan tradition that I’m part of, we would say it simply, “Love begins at home.”

Mechanistic leaders may use the language of “love,” but what employees are looking for is actions that make it real, not just “institutional p.r.”  Until that happens, we may make all sorts of claims to being Christian, but the facts will show that the corporate world is actually ahead of us in treating people the way Jesus would.  And that’s very sad.

About Steve Harper

Retired seminary professor, who taught for 32 years in the disciplines of Spiritual Formation and Wesley Studies. Author and co-author of 42 books. Also a retired Elder in The Florida Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church.
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