Christians in Business: Leading in times of the pandemic

The coronavirus pandemic has changed the way in which leaders approach business and also placed extraordinary demands on their business outlook and strategy. The scale of the outbreak and the uncertainty that many industries have experienced has challenged many executives to respond to the way things are moving.

Israel Sebenzo shares a number of leadership tactics and his perspective on how you can serve your teams for years to come from a biblical perspective.

The tests we have had to endure in our fast-paced world

Leadership is a topic that is very close to my heart and mainly because of its intricacies. I have come across so many definitions of the concept but the one that has stood out for me is centred on having conviction, passion, vision and a sense of purpose that effortlessly inspires others.

It is good to grasp the one and not let go of the other. Whoever fears God will avoid all extremes.

Ecclesiastes 7:18

Israel Sebenzo

The world is becoming increasingly fast-paced and while this is the case, it has been faced with so many changes.

Religion has been tested; ways of life have changed immensely, all the way down to how people now do business. Ecclesiastes 7:18 says, it is good to grasp the one and not let go of the other. Whoever fears God will avoid all extremes.”

The context of this scripture is an important principle about holding two things that seem to be contrary and somehow avoiding all extremes through fearing God.

The situation is even more extreme for Christians who lead businesses as they are faced with the battle of knowing where to draw the line in adapting to the 'new normal' and maintaining honour to God and those they are responsible for.

If there's one thing I long to see accomplished in my lifetime, is to have a workplace that is dominated by Christians. Christians in influential positions within education, arts and entertainment, politics and the state circles - this way we won't even have to change the laws, cultures and principles that do not honour God, for through our Christian values and principles we'll influence God’s purpose in all we do.

Setting boundaries

Setting boundaries is essential for any disciple. It has been a difficult season and for Christian business leaders and leaders in general, the hardest part during this period is knowing where to set boundaries. A number of big corporations have had to shut or scale down, leading to so many people losing their livelihoods. More so, even the way business is conducted is a thing of the past, and now a lot of what we are experiencing has us in 'survival mode'.

As the pandemic challenges us even further, confusion is hitting a number of business leaders and I believe, we could learn a lot from David in scripture during this season.

“Lord, you have assigned me my portion and my cup; you make my lot secure. The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance. I will praise the Lord, who counsels me; even at night my heart instructs me. I keep my eyes always on the Lord. With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken.”

Psalm 16:5-8

Appreciate your teams

Many workspaces have been reduced and we're now seeing an increase in home collaborations among employees. It is important, that as a leader, you are ensuring that the efforts of your team(s) are being appreciated at this time. Showing appreciation in hard times can be so hard but it has the effect of changing hearts and giving a renewed outlook.

When we delve into scripture, David held powerful keys in his hand that set him up for life and that allowed him to honour God regardless of the circumstances around him. If we cross the boundary lines that God has clearly drawn out for us - even in the way we do business - and then take on a spirit of comparison - we challenge the peace in our lives and become anxious about whether we are doing enough or doing too much.

This often results in us 'over-functioning', which then leads to anxiety and in most cases resentment. Make no mistake, comparisons are referenced by what we see others doing and then lead us to question whether we are fulfilling what God has put in our paths to do no matter how significant or insignificant it may seem.

We should always be prepared and have a plan for all situations. The point? Although we might be having our fair share of ups and downs in balancing family life, work and even making certain decisions, the only salvation is to remain secure in a relationship with God. It’s good to remember on a regular basis that we have been wired and formed, and what we have been given to do is a perfect fit.

Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls:Yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation.

Habakkuk 3:17-19 (KJV)

Remain secure and grounded

Enjoy what has been laid out for you to do. It will keep you secure and grounded. Your business ethics should continue to honour those serving you. Remember to function in direct proportion to your assignment in Christ in a crisis or in no crisis and fulfil all duties, contractual or otherwise to those you are leading. Looking at the future for business owners, we are definitely the answer to the crisis.

Where there is no prophetic vision the people cast off restraint, but blessed is he who keeps the law.

Proverbs 29:18

A crisis is a circumstance

Pandemic or no pandemic, the concept of leadership remains unchanged. A crisis is a circumstance we did not plan for. As a result, we are all figuring out what works best for us.Leaders still need to have a vision especially now more than ever.

The world we are in cannot heal itself, we are the ones in that position to hear from God. The truth is, the marketplace is in need of answers. As Christian business leaders, we are the ones who are in a position to see, be in touch with and be reconnected to a different world. While the world is in crisis we shouldn't panic as the world does because we have access to the vast resources available to us from God.

I only do what I see my father doing.

John 5:19

In other words, Jesus didn’t make things up in order to feel important, busy, productive or effective. He would tap into a different world for whatever he did. Jesus was content with doing nothing at all but taking instructions from the Father. That takes humility and obedience. It also takes personal security and a deeper understanding of who you are and who God is. Jesus was more certain about who He was and completely certain about who God was.

If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.

2 Chronicles 7:14 (KJV)

We should always find solace in knowing that we have the power to heal the land and to give direction to the world only if we do the prerequisite of this scripture. Although the global business climate may be at its worst at the moment, as Christians, we've been given the power to heal the situation and it is deeply rooted in Christ.

As hard as it may be, there is a need for forward thinking and positive steps - this will allow you to always remain at the top.

Sow your seed in the morning, and at evening let your hands not be idle, for you do not know which will succeed, whether this or that, or whether both will do equally well.

Ecclesiastes 11:6 (NIV)

Finding opportunity in the midst of difficulty

In these times, there is a need to understand that every problem is a business opportunity, after all, this is what entrepreneurship is based on, seeing gaps and exploiting them. There is a great deal of lessons to be learnt from the consequences brought about by the pandemic and these are lessons for both leaders and those being led.

As the pandemic continues to affect business movement and growth due to the rise in cases at various points, it is especially important for leaders to protect their businesses and this means having a plan in place, always.

Invest in many ventures. Ship your grain across the sea; after many days you may receive a return. Invest in seven ventures, yes, in eight; you do not know what disaster may come upon the land.

Ecclesiastes 11 (NIV)

Being proactive and taking the initiative

Taking initiative is perhaps the biggest step that Christian business leaders should always do. In this pandemic, be ready to adapt. It is an adapt or die situation and the Bible says, in Proverbs 10:4, “a slack hand causes poverty, but the hand of the diligent makes rich”.

I cannot emphasise the importance of self-initiative in this crisis. This message imperative to both the employer and the employee. There is simply no room for slacking. After all, leadership is about inspiring those that are being led and as a Christian leader in business, those you lead should be inspired by your own initiative because it will encourage them to take the initiative themselves in making sure the business stays afloat as we navigate our way through the pandemic. Leadership is a collaborative process; everyone has a role to play.

Mental health is a critical element of how we function in our work and daily life

Another crisis that is slowly eating away at our society is mental health issues. It is important for leaders to honour themselves and their employees by looking out for their wellbeing. In doing so, it is very crucial to reach out to everyone and make sure they are fine and encouraging them to access the resources and support the company has put in place.

Encouraging a culture of speaking out also goes a long way in handling mental wellness issues. Running a business is supposed to be fulfilling but as a business owner myself, I know it comes with its fair share of frustration and having a plan for such scenarios always comes in handy. It's all about having a plan for everything. Business thrives on proper planning.

Leadership without character is ineffective

Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honour.

Romans 12:10

Character is such a key element of leadership. As we lead our businesses in a Godly manner,

we need to have character. It can be as simple as always keeping an attitude of love and respect towards one another, no matter what the circumstance may be. It’s also about communicating regularly and effectively with your teams and wholeheartedly serving the vision. In turn employees, it is also about speaking well of your leaders and always upholding what they have in their heart and remembering that it is never about you - it is about the team. It is also about honouring the person that has been appointed to lead the team.

I love what Romans 12:10 says about this: 'Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honour.' Personally, this means to go out of your way to bring honour to those around you, to those that might be in your teams, and to those that lead your teams. Whether it is “deserved” or not shouldn’t matter, because this is what shifts that culture and gives many of us the opportunity to rise even further.

Living with honour and valuing each other as brothers and sisters in Christ

Living with honour points back to who God is, so that we can see who we are. It brings perspective. We won’t be a generation that only talks, without authenticity or character. Let’s outdo each other in our actions.

These people come near to Me with their mouth and honour Me with their lips, but their hearts are far from Me.

Isaiah 29:13

Remember names, pray for each other, show gratitude, buy coffees, encourage and be secure enough to allow others to grow, and genuinely value one another. Holding each other in high esteem is not only the key to health and growth in our businesses, but more importantly, honours Jesus in the way we care for His people.