Spiritual Shape Shifting – Christian Leadership in an Amoral Society


“…the moral elements are among the most important in war. They constitute the spirit that permeates war as a whole, and at an early stage they establish a close affinity with the will that moves and leads the whole mass of force, practically merging with it, since the will is itself a moral quantity. Unfortunately they will not yield to academic wisdom. They cannot be classified or counted. They have to be seen or felt.”
–Carl von Clausewitz
On War

The value system of American society has become increasingly more relaxed towards the rights and freedoms of individual citizens in establishing and living by their own values. “Morality” has become a dirty word in many societal circles as criteria for determining right and wrong. Leaders sometimes avoid spiritual discussion asserting that it does not impact effectiveness. We can certainly desire only to be effective leaders and describe and justify those traits that will lead to effective leadership. But if that is all we aim for, then we have removed the moral component out of that description and we should not pretend that the resulting traits are ethical. ‘The ends do not always justify the means.’

It is not sufficient that we allow our success to determine what the core morals are. This is because the way we act largely determines the kind of people we become. Since dishonest people and criminals do not live the good life, it would be irrational to act in such a way to become such a person. Leaders require integrity, discipline, accountability, commitment, innovation, and intelligence to inspire and direct others to achieve goals. While this is not intended to be an exhaustive list, nor a complete account of the leadership values, it does illustrate how one can derive and justify relevant virtues.

Leadership versus Management

“Leadership is a function, not a position.” (Lewis, 1996) There is a continuing controversy about the difference between leadership and management. It is possible that a person can be a leader without being a manager (e.g., an informal leader), and a person can be a manager without leading, or manage without subordinates (e.g., a manager of financial accounts). Nobody has proposed that managing and leading are equivalent, but the degree of overlap has been a point of sharp disagreement. The essence of this argument seems to be that managers are oriented toward stability and leaders are oriented toward innovation; managers get people to do things more efficiently, whereas leaders get people to agree about what things should be done.

The current research in leadership is overflowing with books describing the virtues of leadership. Recent authors include Stephen Covey, Principle Centered Leadership (1991); John Kotter, On What Leaders Really Do (1999); Phillip Lewis, Transformational Leadership (1996); Aubrey Malphurs, Being Leaders (2003); and John Maxwell, Developing the Leader within You (1993) to name a few. The argument with the most merit was John Kotter (1988), that “leading and managing are distinct processes…” and that to label people as either leaders and/or managers does little to advance our knowledge or understanding of leadership.

“The word ‘manager’ is an occupational title for a large number of people and it is insensitive to use the term in a way that fosters an inaccurate, negative stereotype of them.” (Yukl, 1998) Leaders and managers are not different types of people but rather the same people in different situations or processes. After reading Kotter, Yukl, Covey, Lewis, Malphurs, Maxwell, and the biographies of military leaders from throughout the ages, the conclusion seems very clear. While the models that examine leadership principles may change, these principles are timeless; this includes moral dimensions. “…leaders who know God and who know how to lead in a Christian manner will be phenomenally more effective in the world than even the most skilled and qualified leaders who lead without God. Spiritual Leadership is not just for Pastors and Missionaries.” (Blackaby, 2001)

Core issue: Moral, Immoral, or Amoral

“The Moral Law causes the people to be in complete accord with their ruler, so that they will follow him regardless of their lives, undismayed by any danger.”

–Sun Tzu

The Art of War

“Morality is a complex system of principles based on cultural, religious, and philosophical concepts and beliefs, by which an individual determines whether his or her actions are right or wrong.” (Wikipedia, 2005) For many individuals, morality is influenced, to a large degree, by religion or theology; but for others, secular and ethical codes are also followed. Religions typically hold that morality is not a human construct, but is the work of God. Such as in the Judeo-Christian religions, the Ten Commandments is held to have been issued directly to mankind by God. Non-religious individuals justify morality on the basis that helping humanity is itself fundamentally ‘good’ and base morality on humanitarian principles.

“Immoral” refers to “a person or behavior that is self-consciously within the scope of morality but does not abide by its rules.” (Wikipedia, 2005) The thief would agree that stealing is wrong but inconsistently try to excuse his particular act and shoulder the blame onto others by saying that he had no choice and so on. In day-to-day conversations, “amoral” and “immoral” are sometimes used interchangeably. However, “Amoral” must be distinguished from “immoral” in that “amoral persons either do not possess ethical notions at all as a result of an unusual upbringing or inborn traits (such as the so-called Antisocial personality disorder) or else do not subscribe to any moral code.” (Wikipedia, 2005) Someone may maintain that he will do as he likes and let others do the same, if they so desire, without turning this into a general principle. Because whoever says so only expresses his personal preference about the way he is going to act, the position is consistent.

Many organizations focus more on ethics rather than morals. Ethics is an intellectual approach to moral issues that asks questions such as how one ought to behave in a specific situation (for example, is abortion morally permissible?) Wether or not the claim necessitates a specific ethical stance is a matter of debate. As stated earlier, contemporary American society encourages members of its diverse population to establish their own values which leads to cultural relativism. “Cultural relativism is the principle that an individual human’s beliefs and activities make sense in terms of his or her own culture.” (Wikipedia, 2005) What follows is that a particular aspect of morality may be questioned or reasoned away, especially by younger generations in society. At times, this questioning extends to the society in general, even to the extent of liberalising laws which prohibited certain behaviors. Such as in the case of abortion, it’s her body or in the case of same sex marraiges, it not my business who marries who. Cultural Relativism also leads to a culture’s justification of immoral beliefs. Such as in the case of racial slurs; ‘It’s fine for blacks to use derragatory words towards other blacks in casual conversations or music videos but it’s wrong for a person of another race to do so.

US Military Value System

“If the theory of war did no more than remind us of these [moral] elements, demonstrating the need to reckon with and give full value to moral qualities, it would expand its horizon, and simply by establishing this point of view would condemn in advance anyone who sought to base an analysis on material factors alone.”

–Carl Von Clausewitz

On War

The US military has a responsibility to itself and society to set and adhere to high moral standards. This requires the kind of moral courage that is critical to successful leadership. It also models a healthy value system for a society that may be in danger due to its own abandonment of such traditional values. The military value system is based almost entirely on the laws that govern it, the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ). The UCMJ applies to all branches of the military including the Coast Guard. Most of the issues covered in the UCMJ include: bringing cases to military courts, the different types of court-martial, treatment and apprehension of prisoners, and the trial process. Additionally, rules and regulations govern military behavior and standards of conduct. It is the very nature of military leadership to promote virtuous behavior for themselves and those who follow rather than passively follow the crowd that is liberalizing its values to accommodate contemporary social trends.

The professional military leader is stuck in the middle of this conflict between traditional and contemporary values, on one hand being a member of a dynamic society, and on the other hand called to lead in an establishment steadfast on traditional moral principles. But you may have noticed that people with military experience have certain intangible qualities. Things like self–confidence, pride and a sense of purpose. The military instills these qualities in enlistees because it makes them good people. By embodying such core values as Honor, Courage and Commitment; men and women build character and confidence, develop strong team skills, and learn to accept responsibility and accountability for personal actions. In the Navy, for instance, the same bedrock principles or core values of honor, courage, and commitment have carried on to today since the naval service began during the American Revolut

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