“Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to the others.” Romans (12:4-5)
Like so much of our language, the word “corporate” has taken on new meanings over the years, many of them not very flattering. Often when we hear it we think of power, money, cold-hearted leaders, business in it’s worst manifestations. A look at its classic definition provides a different perspective. Our english word corporate gets its roots in the latin word for the body, corpus. It literally means to form one body of many members.
I believe this is what the Apostle Paul had in mind when he used it so often as an illustration for the church. We too can draw insight from this perspective as we consider corporate life in all its forms – the church, para-church organizations, business, team life or any other situation in which people come together to work or play as a group.
The classic definition of corporate gives us a powerful look into God’s design for organizational life and leadership. it carries with it implications that are worth thinking about, regardless of where you lead. It’s helpful then to see the organization as a corporate body.
Let’s start with the idea that corporate gets at the reality that we are at once highly individual and at the same time connected to everyone else who is part of the group. The contributions of one affect all.
There is a reciprocal relationship within every corporate body. The body needs strong members; the members need a strong body. When the body is strengthened everyone benefits; when it is weakened everyone suffers. The body will only ever be as strong as its members and what they contribute. When one contributes even a little more, the entire body is strengthened for everyone. When one contributes less, or undermines the effort in any way, the body is weakened for all. This is why great leaders treat every performance like it really matters.
At newspapers across Canada, I shared this thinking in my own way, with the many different teams I led. I held a staff meeting, usually within a few days of my arrival. I told everyone that I believed people were the most important part of every newspaper. I waited for the predicable response, “Oh, he’s one of those guys, those people guys.” Then I would continue, “No, I really mean it. So if I really believe that people are the most important part of this newspaper, I will treat every performance like it really matters. I want you to treat your work like it really matters.”
When you really believe people and what they do matters, it carries with it a responsibility to pay attention, and it sends the message to team members that they should approach work as though what they do really does make a difference. I have always believed that people want to make a difference, they want their contributions to matter. I sent this message early and often.
In a strong corporate body there are no unimportant contributions, “The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you,’ nor again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you.’ On the contrary the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable…” (1 Cor. 12:21-22)
So how does your leadership team treat the development of the organization? Does every member of your leadership team treat the contributions of each individual member as indispensable? How would this corporate perspective change the way you lead?
Want to go a little deeper into Christian leadership? I wrote The Heart and Hands of Leadership: The Twelve Timeless Practices of Effective Leaders to pass on what I’ve learned from a career of building high performing teams. Or look into some individual coaching or a 1/2 day workshop for your leadership group.