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What if the boss’ “North Star” is not yours?

What if the boss’ “North Star” is not yours?

How does one judge a CEO? On the one hand, amoral leadership can lead one to excessively take advantage of the system. Immorality in pursuit of profit leads to News Corp behavior. We want CEOs to have a good moral compass. But what happens when that compass comes with “faith” that conflicts with ours?

In the aftermath of the Chik-Fil-A kerfuffle, David W. Miller at HBR Blog Review asks what happens when a CEO’s “North Star” conflicts with ours.

Most CEOs I know, the great ones at least, all say that a leader needs to have a North Star; some fixed point of reference to stay ethically grounded, personally and professionally. For many, this North Star is their faith. For Timberland, it was the founder’s Orthodox Judaism. For Whole Foods, it is the CEO’s Buddhism. For Chick-fil-A, it is the founder’s Christian faith. For others, it may not be religion but a quiet source of decency and depth acquired from parents and others in their life.

Managers and employees face the same dilemmas as CEOs. If your faith teaches you values that other laugh at or disregard (e.g. Sabbath rest), what do you do? What if your faith says that following the spirit of the law is as important as the letter, and your company doesn’t? What if your faith says that work should bring you meaning and purpose, and not just a paycheck? What if your faith says you can’t touch certain food items, or you must wear certain clothes, or pray at certain times, and others disrespect you as a result? Or if your faith teaches you to treat women, minorities, gay people, and the disabled at work with the same rights, respect, and compensation as everyone else, but your company or country culture does not, what do you do?

In these days of seemingly unending corporate misbehaviors, the importance of business leaders being anchored with a strong moral compass seems more important than ever. They need help creating ethical corporate cultures and places to work where employees can find meaning and purpose, and be treated with dignity and respect. But what does this mean in practice? What are the possibilities and pitfalls of integrating faith and work?


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This is a VITALLY important topic—especially in a time of job scarcity.

So, you can’t get your dream job—or even one semi-appropriate to your training and/or expectations. “Get a job/take ANY job!” you’ll hear.

But if you’re like me, and hold to a Hippocratic “First, Do No Harm” ethic, what then? When the chief motives are PROFITS, what are the chances you’ll be doing harm from Day One on-the-job? [Pretty good, in my estimation]

Leaving aside execrable Dan Cathy-type values, the “North Star” of way too many employers, are exploitive. And employees are just supposed to grin-n-bear it (and even a union—anyone remember those?—probably won’t prevent exploitation of clients).

I’d love to hear others’ opinions on this.

JC Fisher

Bill Dilworth

There are laws in place to facilitate the reasonable accomodation of religious practice in the workplace. The ADL has a pretty good and detailed explanation of how the law works:

Ann Fontaine

Thanks Jay for signing your name. It is really helpful to your editors.

A Facebook User

This article could also apply to our municipal, county, state, and federal legislative representatives, and the board members and commissioners appointed by them. The service I did for seven years on my local board of health was grounded by the baptismal covenant, although I didn’t tell every one that. I just quietly respected the dignity of every living thing and it colored all my interactions with fellow commissioners and citizens. (I tried to do that, at least). First time registering to comment using my Facebook, but I’ve commented before on the other typkeypad thingie.

-Jay Vos

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