4 min read

“I am a committed individual, passionate about life and about doing something significant. But I am experiencing some roadblocks where I work. I think my core personal values are not shared by the organizational leadership with whom I work. What should I do? Do you think I should leave?”

I was recently asked this very question. It made me think and think hard. How would you respond?

What to do if your core values are not shared by the people you are trying to lead? When I was asked this question, I was at first a little embarrassed that I was unable to provide a quick answer (My must-be-the-answer-man side was coming out which is totally contrary to my philosophy of empowerment). Upon further reflection, I realized there is no way I could answer the question.

I cannot answer this question because the answer depends on a personal choice. Each individual must choose how much further they can go, how much more time they are willing to invest, and how much more they are willing to pay. No pre-processed answer to these questions exists.

I also cannot answer the question because I don’t know all the driving forces within another person’s life, within the organization, or within the lives of all the other individuals who make up the organization. This system of forces and counter-forces is so complex I would not dare to attempt to answer it for someone else.

In addition, trying to answer these questions for someone is dis-empowering, as providing answers often is. Learning comes through the pain of thinking. If I provide the answers—even correct answers—I have shielded my pupils from the pain of thinking but also I have deprived them of the joy of learning.

What advice, then, can I give? Following are three actions you can take to help yourself answer this question for yourself. Again, the question is this: “If my personal core values differ from the leadership of the organization with which I am working, should I leave?”

First action: Determine what principles will guide your decision. In other words, instead of focusing on the answer, focus on the general values and principles that will govern your search for the answer. The following list came to mind as I thought about this. Perhaps you can think of more to add to the list.

  1. Establish a set of strategic policies. Lead the organization through a process of determining policies in the areas of strategy, structure, human resources, reward systems, and processes. A clear set of policies will help you identify the free zone in which you can practices your values.
  2. Strive for mutual understanding rather than agreement. If you have discovered that your values are in conflict with the values of others in the organization, chalk it up as a plus; at least now you understand the situation more clearly.
  3. Assume you are where you are because you are supposed to be there. If you are going to err, err on the side of staying.
  4. Seek to Serve. Is your heart in the right place? Are you reacting from selfish ambition or from a desire to see the organization and its people prosper?
  5. Love people as they are. We all know marriage doesn’t go very well when one spouse sets out on a campaign to change the other spouse. Change has to be self-motivated and must be preceded by unconditional positive regard (to use a phrase from Carl Rogers).
  6. Pursue the best option for the organization. In the long run, will the organization be better off if you leave? This is a tough question to ask oneself. We all like to think we are essential, and this thinking often takes us beyond the point of value for the organization.
  7. Live in the present. Sometimes this questioning of ourselves and our current function is an indication of our inability to live in the present. Instead of constantly striving toward the future, take a moment to look around you and experience fully where you are. Have you taken the time to truly understand others, to know their story, to delve deeply into their experience? Are you so preoccupied with becoming that you fail to be?

So, my first suggestion would be to use these principles–or come up with your own–to inform the question we started out with. Putting each of these principles into practice will go a long way toward making the right decision.

(To be continued…)


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Portrait of Dr. Waddell

Dr. Greg Waddell is passionate about helping church leaders equip their people for ministry. He believes there is wild potential in every believer that begs to be released. He can help you develop and implement practical strategies for increasing the ministry capacity of your congregation.