I had an interview with Amazon not too long ago (for those out there who are curious, yes I got an offer and no this specific offer did not end up working out).
Besides the abnormal six hour length of the in-person phase, what struck me was their preoccupation with consistently asking me about what they call their leadership principles. Amazon’s ranking as the most valuable company currently oscillates anywhere in the top five so there must be something to these principles that they are so fond of. As I became familiar with them I realized that these principles are already found in our mother, the Church, in a much more deep and meaningful way.
Let us therefore walk through the principles one by one and make sure that we become the following type of leader in our own local parish:
Leaders start with the customer and work backwards. They work vigorously to earn and keep customer trust. Although leaders pay attention to competitors, they obsess over customers.
In the Church, who is our “customer”?
It’s probably not the first thing that comes to your mind. It is NOT the congregant; it is not the people who gather. Rather it is the One whom we gather to worship. He is our goal and aim. He is the One whom we seek to please.
“do I seek to please men? For if I still pleased men, I would not be a bondservant of Christ.” (Galatians 1:10)
It is not about us. It is about Him. Worship doesn’t have to feel good or provide you with some experience. Rather, it is an encounter with the One True God.
Also, we do pay attention to our “competitors,” the demons who seek to shame us. Although we are not ignorant of the devil’s devices, our one true focus is Christ, the King of glory.
Leaders are owners. They think long term and don’t sacrifice long-term value for short-term results. They act on behalf of the entire company, beyond just their own team. They never say “that’s not my job.”
Sacrificing future glory for the present indulgence is not a good investment. That’s what we do when we gratify our carnal desires instead of pursuing something to offer our Maker: “…giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love.” (2 Peter 1:5-7). And what is it said of he who lacks these things? He is shortsighted, even to blindness. Good leaders are not shortsighted; they think long term.
Furthermore, my sin affects my brother, my community. That is why in the early Church they would publicly confess their sins, and even to this day when someone confesses to a priest they are being reconciled with the whole body of Christ. There is no such thing as a victim-less crime.
Invent and Simplify
Leaders expect and require innovation and invention from their teams and always find ways to simplify. They are externally aware, look for new ideas from everywhere, and are not limited by “not invented here.” As we do new things, we accept that we may be misunderstood for long periods of time.
I want view this one from the paradigm of serving in the diaspora. In the Council of Jerusalem, a dispute arose over whether new believers should be circumcised. The conclusion was “we should not trouble those from among the Gentiles who are turning to God, but that we write to them to abstain from things polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from things strangled, and from blood.” (Acts 15:19-20)
In a new culture, Christians will have to adapt and do things in different ways so that the message of the Gospel can be preached in a way the hearer can receive. Also, some traditions need to be done away with entirely as superfluous. Here I am talking about the traditions of men, and not paradosis.
Are Right, A Lot
Leaders are right a lot. They have strong judgment and good instincts. They seek diverse perspectives and work to disconfirm their beliefs.
It would be arrogant for anyone to think they are always right, even right a lot like this particular principle is suggesting. That’s why we have the consensus of the fathers, councils of bishops, and the collective lives of the saints to learn from. Never one, always together. However there is One who is always right, and if wholeheartedly united to Him you will be too:
Stratonicos, a wise and eloquent monk, full of his intelligence, has nothing to say when Silouan, in all simplicity, asks him how the perfect speak: he suddenly realizes that he does not know the first thing about perfect speech. But his inability to speak allows him to hear, and into his humbled silence Silouan plants the message that ‘The perfect never say anything of themselves. . . . They only say what the Spirit inspires them to say.’Source
If you are truly speaking as He inspires and walking according to the Spirit of God, you will be right in your words and deeds. However be careful of thinking, ‘you know what God is telling you’ and everyone around you is wrong. Remember, never one, always together.
Learn and Be Curious
Leaders are never done learning and always seek to improve themselves. They are curious about new possibilities and act to explore them.
This one is pretty straightforward. Our Church has such richness and depth. There is an endless amount of things to learn until we come to “the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.” We should not be afraid to be exposed to new ideas which we can critically examine in the Light of the Truth of Christ.
“Let books be your dining table and you shall find delight. Let them be your mattress and you will sleep restful nights.” (St. Ephraim the Syrian)
Hire and Develop the Best
Leaders raise the performance bar with every hire and promotion. They recognize exceptional talent, and willingly move them throughout the organization. Leaders develop leaders and take seriously their role in coaching others. We work on behalf of our people to invent mechanisms for development like Career Choice.
The Church has something better than Career Choice. She has discipleship. Too many church leaders are overburdened by the load they have to carry because the work is not delegated well to the rest of the people:
So the Lord said to Moses: “Gather to Me seventy men of the elders of Israel, whom you know to be the elders of the people and officers over them; bring them to the tabernacle of meeting, that they may stand there with you. Then I will come down and talk with you there. I will take of the Spirit that is upon you and will put the same upon them; and they shall bear the burden of the people with you, that you may not bear it yourself alone. (Numbers 11:16-17)
Good leaders empower others to make change. A sign of good leadership is the birth of strong, willing, and capable leaders.
Insist on the Highest Standards
Leaders have relentlessly high standards — many people may think these standards are unreasonably high. Leaders are continually raising the bar and drive their teams to deliver high quality products, services, and processes. Leaders ensure that defects do not get sent down the line and that problems are fixed so they stay fixed.
As Christians, holiness is our standard. True church leaders spurn others on to repent, not just by preaching about it but by modeling it in their own lives. If we break the chain of sin in our lives, those around us and those who come after us will be better off for it. We never lower our standard of holiness knowing that we are called to be holy as He is holy and even called to be perfect as our Father in heaven is perfect.
Pursue … holiness, without which no one will see the Lord (Hebrews 12:14).
Let us encourage one another to serve one another with love and humility, with Christ as the head and the goal.
Stay tuned for Part II coming next week!