The world judges a coach’s success by the number of games his team wins. An executive’s success is determined by how much profit he or she makes. To be famous is to be well-known for some great achievement. The world teaches that the only way to get both is to be successful, regardless of the methods used to reach that goal. In other words, the end justifies the means.

I have known leaders and managers who were so focused on production and profits that it became a point of obsession. The world might view this as healthy, but in some respects it is just the opposite. You may know business people who are so fixed on success that they put the bottom line over the needs of their workers, society, the environment, or anything else that may stand in their way.

Whether you work in a large organization or small, if the bottom line is the only measure of success, then every manager, supervisor, and employee is constantly under the gun to make a profit. And this includes Christians in management positions.

When the bottom-line numbers are black, a manager is considered a success. Producing a profit one year carries the manager to only the next profit and loss statement, or the next year. If the numbers shrink from the previous years, or if they become red, the manager’s survival is in jeopardy.

It is difficult for a worldly manager to possess the incentive to develop compassion for workers, society, the environment, or anything else that may threaten a company’s profit. Without this civic-minded or compassionate attitude, it paves the way for managers to become aggressive in their pursuit of a fat black bottom line. Aggressive people are sometimes reviled, yet at the same time they are often admired, respected, and lavishly rewarded. Or so it seems. If you are a sports fan, I’m sure some coaches’ names may come to mind.

One can easily point to any number of aggressive people who have achieved wealth and position with few, if any, undesirable side effects. Their philosophy can be summed up with “The marketplace is a jungle! It’s survival of the fittest, or the most capable.”

Las Vegas has seen the making of a number of multimillionaires. Some of the wealthiest people in the nation live here. Some may have made their fortunes by questionable means. In spite of the stunning achievements of some overly aggressive people, does the end justify the means? Is this truly the best way to reach for success? Or more to the point, should Christian managers adopt the world’s way of doing business? The Apostle Paul writes in Colossians 3:7 “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” and “Whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God” . I Corinthians 10:31b

Too many Christians believe that unless they live and work as the world does, they will be at a disadvantage. Some claim that instead of using biblical principles and standards, they have no choice but to be aggressive and to do whatever it takes to survive in today’s workplace. As far as they are concerned, survival in the workplace jungle demands that managers be both ruthless and aggressive. Christian managers who separate their spiritual lives from the workplace must address the question of ruthlessness from a “bottom line” perspective.

Is there a difference between being aggressive and assertive? Let me interject a fine distinction between being aggressive and assertive. Aggressiveness employs a combative attitude. Its means are severe and intense. The goal is the all in all. The aggressive person mows down anyone or anything that gets in the way of reaching the goal. Assertiveness, however, is boldness or confidence. The way one reaches the goal is as important as reaching the goal, but not at the expense of hurting others or utilizing questionable tactics.
Having been a foreman for Birds Eye and 23 of my years as a store manager for Montgomery Ward my basic philosophy was to: Set goals, take whatever time was necessary to prepare and then have the discipline to work tenaciously and never give up or quit until a job was completed. The goals I set for myself and others were often ambitious with a clear vision. I learned to spend less time on the unimportant tasks and to prioritize my workday. I never left work without making a to-do-list for the next day.

In today’s workplace, an increasing number of managers are learning that they can conduct business without being aggressive and still be successful. Firms that function according to Christian principles consistently out-perform the old style, authoritarian firms. And it makes perfect sense. If we place a high priority on serving our customers and clients, we are much more likely to be prosperous and successful.

So I ask the question: How important is success to you? You must first define what success means to you. Is it living and working to please God, or to please others? What is more important: accumulating a lot of stuff, or seeking first the kingdom of God and His righteousness? Is wealth and material goods your goal, or are they the by-product of serving God and putting Him first? Christ was the most powerful person ever to live. What was most important to Him? Was it His mission to gain fame and notoriety, or to set an example that others could follow? He is our example! We were placed on this earth to live by that example and to lead in changing the hearts of others that they too might be Christian examples.

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