The Decision-Making Process: The Lance Of Leadership

The most recent inauguration of the New York and San Francisco chapters of the Hellenic Business Network (HBN) provide the Hellenic community across America further opportunities for its leadership in the marketplace, its education and research excellence, and creative entrepreneurial success to be nationally and internationally recognized. Apart from accelerating entrepreneurship, the primary goal of the newly formed networks is to represent the best competencies within the marketplace, universities and organizations.

By Rev. Dr. Frank Marangos

As a member of HBN’s Advisory Board I have been asked what role the Church can play in this collaborative vision. What counsel and/or advice can Christian Orthodoxy hope to provide Hellenic business leaders throughout the country? I believe that, at the very least, the current focus on making wise decisions to reduce unethical financial practices while advancing servant-centered business models in the marketplace should provide Orthodox Christian leaders a most crucial and welcome seat at the deliberations.

According to a nationwide study of prominent U.S. presidents and CEOs conducted by Management Science and Development Inc., one of the top two leadership skills of successful executives is their ability to analyze and resolve complex problems. Effective leaders are reported to probe deliberately and to act swiftly. Management experts insist that such valiant leaders have the ability to make difficult decisions because they are not afraid to analyze and probe the concerns and issues that confront their organizations.

The long historical experience of the Orthodox Church provides Hellenic American entrepreneurs in leadership positions important insights from which to envision successful futures for their companies, universities, and organizations. In particular, the Church’s celebration of the life of Saint Longinos (October 16), the centurion who pierced the side of Jesus’ body while it hung on the Holy Cross, provides business as well as Christian leaders a wonderful decision-making approach. While no name is given for him in the Gospel narratives, the moniker attributed to him by the early Christian community is most probably the Latinized form of the Greek word for spear or lance (longche).

Scripture informs us that in order to certify his death, Longinos pierced the side of Jesus with his spear. The wound immediately produced the necessary proof – blood and water. As a result of the darkened sky, the rent temple veil, earthquake and manner in which Jesus accepted death, Longinos was enlightened and thereby empowered to offer his now famous declaration of faith: “Truly, this was the Son of God” (Matthew 27:54; Mark 15:39; Luke 23:47)!

The lancing of Jesus is so significant that it is liturgically enacted each time the Holy Gifts are prepared for the celebration of the Divine Liturgy. While the Orthodox celebrant is arranging the wine, water and bread during the Office of Oblation (Proskomide), he inserts a special lance-type utensil into the portion of the bread designated as the Body of Christ (Amnos) saying: "One of the soldiers with a spear pierced his side and immediately there came forth blood and water. And he who saw it bore witness, and his witness is true."

This on-going liturgical thrust of Longinos’ lance into the side of Jesus (Amnos) exemplifies the need for Church and business leaders to properly probe the pastoral, administrative, and political climate of their respective environments. The effect of such intimate lance-style investigations provide the necessary prerequisites for effective decision making that may be classified into five major approaches: (a) authoritative, (b) facilitative, (c) consultative, (d) delegative, and (e) pastoral.

The authoritative decision-making approach occurs when leaders simply make a decision based on their best understanding of a given situation and then announce it to their subordinates. The authoritative style is most appropriate to situations in which leaders possess the appropriate information and experience necessary to make the right decisions. On the other hand, the facilitative decision-making style involves a cooperative effort between leaders and subordinates. In this option decisions are based on shared input from all parties.

The consultative decision-making approach allows leaders to make the final call after receiving input from knowledgeable and willing subordinate advisers. The delegative strategy occurs when a leader delegates decision-making authority to a knowledgeable subordinate or subordinates. It goes without saying that subordinates who receive delegated decision-making powers should also have sufficient knowledge and experience to make informed decisions. The attractiveness of delegation as a decision-making strategy grows as a function of organizational size and complexity.

Finally, the Orthodox Pastoral Action (OPA) Model includes a four-phase approach to decision-making that is based on the two primary and complementary sources of insight that flow from the pierced side of Jesus. An ancient icon of Holy Friday wonderfully illustrates the OPA Model’s theological underpinning. The sacred image depicts two hovering angels on either side of the Holy Cross. Each angel holds a chalice. While one angel receives the blood flowing from the crucified body of Jesus, the other cups the water. The message is clear. The sacramental grace offered from both the baptismal font and the liturgical chalice originates at the pierced side of Christ. In the final analysis, however, the Church, as well as the entire Cosmos, is sustained by the blood and water of Christ’s Body. Decisions for every religious and secular issue, problem or concern, should therefore take into serious consideration one or both of these sacramental sources.

It is apparent that the probing lance of Longinos provides a powerful decision-making image that may help remind leaders, who choose to imbue their entrepreneurial visions with Christian principles, to seriously consider an issue’s pastoral implications prior to determining future scenarios. Does the problem being studied improve or deter the process of new life for employees and vendors? How will the decisions made affect the wellbeing of constituents, clients or consumers? Within a climate of resource scarcity, financial fear and lack of corporate trust, it would be beneficial to ascertain the degree to which decisions will affect the pastoral efficacy of our nation’s institutions and organizations. The four-phase OPA model provides the necessary filters for successfully probing and effectively determining the most appropriate futures.

The first phase of the OPA Decision Making Model is called Ortho-poria. In this initial step leaders focus their attention on evaluation, investigation, and the honest probing of problems and concerns. The word poria describes a process of diligent examination that would make a specific problem capable of innumerable solutions. Unfortunately, when pursuing such information, entrepreneurs often defer the insight of religious wisdom to the voice of secular organizational expertise. While knowledge of social science, administrative and organizational disciplines may be respectfully consulted, leadership deliberations should always bend the knee to pastoral conditions, implications and insights. In short, while beneficial, secular systems of expertise that are, unfortunately, preoccupied with “bottom-line” scenarios, must never be allowed to dilute the Christian principles of honesty, care and love.

The second phase of the OPA Decision Making approach is Ortho-poiesis. Poiesis is etymologically derived from the ancient Greek term poio, which means "to make." The word describes the process of production, creativity and program/strategy formation. The philosophers Plato and Aristotle contrasted poiesis from praxis (doing or practical activity). Whereas praxis only requires skill, poiesis requires virtue. The idea is that during the creative production phase (poiesis), the ends are set. Ortho-poiesis, therefore, requires knowing which activities and ends are worth pursuing. In this step leaders use their God-inspired creativity to forge new direction based on preferred future scenarios.

Ortho-paidia is the third phase of the OPA decision-making process. Every decision has instructive implications. While they may not have direct didactic impact, decisions can greatly affect the social and political systems of every organization, group or cluster. The distant ripples of what may, at first, appear as benign and un-connected decisions to problems and concerns may later adversely affect an organization’s social climate. The lack of capacity among entrepreneurs to acknowledge and seriously consider the power of such forces frequently contributes to many unintended difficult political situations among clients, constituents and employees. Ortho-paidia stresses the need to analyze the actual and potential educational impact of leadership decisions being considered.

The final phase of the OPA decision-making approach is Ortho-praxia. Praxis is the process by which an objective, strategy, or program is enacted or practiced. In Ancient Greek the word praxis refers to activity engaged in by free men. Aristotle believed that there were three basic activities of man: theoria, poiesis and praxis. He suggested that there were three types of knowledge that corresponded to these kinds of activity: theoretical (truth); poietical (production); and practical (action). Aristotle further divided practical knowledge into ethics, economics and politics. He also distinguished between eupraxia (good praxis) and dyspraxia (bad praxis, misfortune).Hellenic American entrepreneurial leaders should pursue a praxis that is right and virtuous. Ethical decisions however must be translated into decisive action. Unfortunately, many organizations all too often suffer from paralysis rather than timely action (praxis). Fearful of making an unintentional mistake, leaders are often tangled in a web of over or under analysis of competing strategic visions. Tragically, such leaders end up micromanaging all conclusions while lower-level directors and their constituents impatiently wait longer and longer for decisions to trickle-down.

There is no greater threat to an organization’s enduring stability and effectiveness than that caused by an insalubrious aversion to risk-taking. However, while entrepreneurs should never resolve to irresponsibly embark into hazardous territory, judgments based on diligent analysis and prayerful evaluation must quickly be transferred into faithful praxis!

Two piercings occurred at Golgotha on Holy and Great Friday. While a sharp lance pierced the body of a crucified prisoner, divine love probed and thereby changed the heart of a military commander - a leader! All Hellenic American leaders, whether in the Church, profit or non-for-profit sectors, would therefore be well served to consider their own readiness to probe . . . as well as their willingness to be probed in such a similar fashion!

Rev. Dr. Frank Marangos is the Dean of the Archdiocesan Cathedral of the Holy Trinity in New York City. He is a member of the Advisory Board of the New York Chapter of the Hellenic Business Network (HBN). He is also an Adjunct Assistant Professor at Saint John’s University (NY).


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