How to Communicate a Vision

The case of GoodFood (not the company’s real name) exemplifies a rather simple formula for a leader to communicate his organization’s vision. The three basic components are:

  1. It must be a good vision,

The vision must fit well within the culture of the organization, being consistent with and reinforcing the moral beliefs of the majority of the members of the organization.  It gives a sense of collective meaning and identity.

2. The organization’s leader(s) are truly committed to plan according to the vision, and openly live and promote it,

The leader must be genuinely committed to and consistently insist that organizational planning, operations, and control are directed by the vision.  He must visibly “walk the talk” in his organizational role and in all spheres of his life.


3.  The vision is repeated continually to all stakeholders to stress its reality and importance.

The leader must constantly keep the vision before the organization’s officers and members.  This requires repetition of the vision–via personal interactions, formal and informal organizational communications, orientation and training, and progress reports.  The leader needs to communicate the same vision to those inside and outside the organization.

>>For additional details of the case of GoodFood and discussion of how these points might be actualized, see Leadership Ethics and Spirituality, pages 155-158.

When to Quit

-Winston Churchill, a leader who had numerous failures, often disastrous ones, taught that the good leader is one who fails and learns from his failures, continuing at the mission until he finds success. He was not a quitter.

However, when is it right to quit?

Robert E. Lee chose to surrender to Ulysses Grant at Appomattox in April 1865, even though Lee’s men pleaded with him to fight on.  Confederate President Jefferson Davis refused to quit and fled Virginia to join Johnston’s Army of Tennessee, urging him to fight on for the cause.  Is there sometimes virtue in quitting?

Richard Nixon resigned when threatened with impeachment over Watergate.  Bill Clinton, under impeachment proceedings in Congress, refused to resign.  The political and social circumstances as well as particulars of cases vary, so deciding to quit or not can be difficult.  One’s moral compass matters, but in which direction does it point?

This can be an issue for any manager or employee.  What should the employee do when asked by his manager to act in a manner contrary to his ethical beliefs, such as to hide potentially damning evidence, to overestimate the potentialities of the company’s products, or to hire someone he feels is under qualified?  Is this employee caught between the “Scylla” of quitting and the “Charybdis” of going along in moral compromise?

Ethicist Joanne Ciulla recommends that one should avoid doing either.  Instead, a person should creatively develop other alternatives.

–An excerpt from Leadership Ethics & Spirituality, pages 168-169.



About the Book

Leadership Ethics & Spirituality: A Christian Perspective views leadership as a spiritual endeavor, not merely something to which we apply spiritual lessons. This means a leader should seek to bridge the gap between her deeper, inner self and her ultimate source of calling. Rather than moralizing or offering doctrinaire answers, it is a practical guide. The author supports his reflections by drawing on his interdisciplinary background of business ethics, leadership, and theology.

As a practical guide, it explains how to be both effective and ethical as a successful leader while walking by faith. Chapter 1 offers a rationale for why spiritual openness is important for a comprehensive leadership ethic. It distinguished biblical Christian spirituality from those of other worldview perspectives. The book then presents a reasoned Christian perspective of good leadership, an ethical decision model that allows for spiritual concerns, and practical suggestions as to how a person can make ethical decisions with spiritual-mindedness.LES Book Cover

The ethical aspects of issues a leader is likely to confront are highlighted throughout the book, including the appendix. For example, a chapter assesses servant leadership, explaining why this very good approach, may not be the best approach for every leader to adopt. The book concludes by discussing practices a leader or prospective leader might adopt to fashion a personalized character development plan.

Leadership Ethics & Spirituality is for every spiritually-minded person called to a leadership role, in his workplace and his other areas of responsibility. It can help answer some important questions, including:

  • What is good leadership?
  • Am I really called to be a leader?
  • What does my faith have to do with my leadership?
  • How should I address and solve ethical issues?
  • What moral character qualities do I need?
  • What leadership style and practices should I adopt?
  • How can I develop and grow into the leader God wants me to be?


The book’s key messages

  • Good leadership is a spiritual endeavor that requires openness to spiritual concerns as well as material ones. Materialism is an incomplete view of reality and thus an insufficient worldview for leadership. A good leader is effective and ethical and spiritually-minded. All three aspects are needed. The leader should demonstrate effectiveness through technical competence and ethical decision making with spiritual understanding and the commitment to follow a biblically-grounded worldview.
  • An ethically and spiritually-minded leader should learn basic ethical decision making concepts and strive to develop the strength of moral character to apply them in the context of his calling. This book presents a biblically-grounded ethical framework and illustrates how it can guide the leader. 
  • For a Christian to be a good leader, she must apply a sound Christian ethic and seek to practice purposeful leadership in a technically excellent manner. Being called to a leadership role as well as be called to faith, and she must consistently seek to adhere to a Christian worldview in the workplace and in all other spheres of life.
  • Being a Christian does not guarantee that one is a good leader. But a person optimistically can seek to develop the moral strength of character needed to grow as an effective, ethical, and spiritually-minded leader. This book offers practical approaches for such growth, although success depends on the individual and the providential leading of God.
  • Good leadership is a worthy but very challenging ambition. Other people tend to hold a Christian leader to higher professional standards and personal behaviors than they hold themselves. The good leader needs to pray faithfully and humbly be open to seek forgiveness.

Blurb about the book:

A practical guide for anyone called to be a good leader, Leadership Ethics & Spirituality explains why and how you can be much more effective and ethical as a successful leader while walking by faith. From a biblical worldview, it draws upon leadership research and ethics theory to explain what practices and character qualities you need to be a good leader and how you can develop them successfully to the challenges faced in twenty-first century organizations—effectively, ethically, and with spiritual-mindedness. Although written primarily for Christian leaders, it offers useful insights for those from other spiritual traditions and perspectives as well.


The Author

The Author

Dr. J. Thomas Whetstone (M.S., M.Div., Th.M., Ph.D.) is exceptionally qualified to integrate leadership, ethics, and spirituality. As an internationally-recognized scholar on virtue ethics in business, he has experience working in corporate management, church ministries, university teaching and administration, and leadership of civic organizations. Married with one son, he devotes his time to family, volunteer leadership, and working out, while writing on business ethics, leadership, and the history of the American Revolution.

The author sees education as a life-long endeavor. After graduating magna cum laude from Washington & Lee University (B.S.) where he was Phi Beta Kappa and a Distinguished Military Graduate, he earned the M.S. in Management (MBA equivalent) at the Sloan School, Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He was a summer intern for the Federal Reserve System in Washington, DC, and wrote his thesis on the check collection process for the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston. He worked for two Fortune 500 diversified natural gas corporations, rising from corporate planner to a senior level position as director, planning and strategic analysis.

Having been converted to evangelical Christianity, after eleven productive years in corporate management he sensed a call to biblical and theological studies. He enrolled at Reformed Theological Seminary, placing first in his class as a Master of Divinity student and also completing a Master of Theology. He also met and married his life partner, Nancy. His M.Th. thesis addressed the role of Calvin’s work ethic in the modern workplace.

After a church internship and extensive experience in preaching, he responded to a call to teach at Belhaven College. Primarily teaching business management, he found the materials available for his business ethics course to be unsatisfactory, especially for the Christian in business. He saw this to be a significant problem for future Christian leaders, especially given the pervasive decline in morality in our overall society.

As a result, he decided to pursue doctoral studies in management ethics at Oxford University in England. His supervisor, British scholar Professor Chris Cowton, insisted that his research meet world-class standards of scholarship. Whetstone’s doctoral thesis involved theoretical and empirical exploration of what qualities are most needed by excellent organizational leaders. His subsequent academic articles are ranked highly among International authors in the area of virtue ethics and character development in business.

After teaching at two smaller institutions, he was recruited to direct the Organizational Leadership and Management Department, Regent University School of Undergraduate Studies. He redeveloped the curriculum and approaches focused on enhancing the program’s academic rigor, integration of faith and learning, ethics, and leadership character development. While spending most of his time on administration, he also developed and taught courses, including ones in ethics and in moral character development. He continued his research and writing of more than 40 articles, books, and chapters on business ethics, moral character development, virtue ethics, management, and leadership. Upon retirement from the faculty, he decided to culminate his career and educational experiences by writing Leadership Ethics & Spirituality.

His sense of calling, and the book’s purpose, is to help guide spiritually-aware students and practicing leaders as they seek to grow as good leaders—of their organizations and throughout society.

J. Thomas Whetstone


Leadership Ethics and Spirituality

I wrote Leadership Ethics & Spirituality to offer a practical Christian alternative to the growing variety of books on spirituality and leadership.

Society increasingly appreciates that good leadership often has a spiritual aspect. However, many find it difficult to get a handle on what this really means and how it can affect their lives and workplaces.

Leadership Ethics & Spirituality offers practical answers from a biblical world and life perspective. For the Christian leader, this requires openness to spiritual influences as he lives and acts according to faith and obedience to the transcendent and immanent God of scripture.

a practical Christian alternative to the growing variety of books on spirituality and leadership.

a practical Christian alternative to the growing variety of books on spirituality and leadership.

I argue that a leader finds purpose and meaning through humble striving to lead with technical excellence according to a Spirit-led ethic. This is a comprehensive approach. Good leadership requires the leader to seek all three of the following:

  • to become technically effective in applying leadership techniques
  • to lead according to a sound moral basis
  • to live and lead with spiritual-mindedness, being open to guidance according to a spiritual world and life worldview

There are many books on leadership and more are written every day. As leadership expert Joanne Ciulla says, the important focus needs to be on good leadership. She describes a good leader as both effective and ethical. I agree, but write to emphasize that for the Christian, indeed, any spiritually-minded person, leadership also needs to recognize all of reality. He must go beyond the materialist dimension to comprehend the spiritual. Indeed, interest in the spiritual aspects of leadership and ethics is increasing; there is a growing list of books and management experiments seeking to satisfy spiritual concerns. But Leadership Ethics & Spirituality is distinctively different; it seeks to offer practical answers grounded in a credible (theologically, philosophically, and empirically) Christian approach.

My book includes numerous examples of what it means for a Christian to be a good leader. It discusses the attributes of such a leader including his double calling—to faith and to leadership, his commitment to a biblical world and life view, his practice according to sound Christian ethic, and his striving for technical excellence as a leader. My ambition is that this book can help guide spiritually-aware students and practicing leaders as they seek to grow as such good leaders.

The book is not just another handy, step-by-step guide that guarantees leadership success. It is not a cookbook. Instead, it stresses the need to develop the moral character qualities needed by a good leader and offers practical suggestions as to how a person can develop what she needs. Furthermore, it discusses critical questions that a leader faces, offering approaches for their solution.

Of course, a person can practice good leadership without being a professing Christian.   Not every Christian senses a call to leadership, and some are not good leaders. And some people seem to lead more easily than others, drawing followers when others do not. But everyone who desires to lead can grow in his or her leadership capability. Even those reluctant to lead can find that they can do so when called upon. I write to encourage every person who desires to grow as a good leader. And while this book is directed primarily toward Christians, it may offer insights and is open to constructive criticism from those of other spiritual traditions and perspectives, as well.

J. Thomas Whetstone