What's Really Behind the Chick-fil-A Controversy
by: Merle Switzer
Senior Fellow, Public Policy Institute
Tuesday, August 7, 2012
recently called for a boycott of Chick-fil-A as a way to fry the company due to
CEO Dan Cathy’s stance on traditional values.
Why are some people fired up? Because their values differ from those of Cathy and because Chick-fil-A is a company that uses its influence to support its beliefs.
Since 1982, Chick-fil-A has embraced this corporate purpose: “To glorify God by being a faithful steward of all that is entrusted to us. To have a positive influence on all who come in contact with Chick-fil-A.”
The fact that we can believe what we want is one thing to love about this country. You can choose to embrace traditional values or not … you can choose to attend church or not … you can choose to believe in God or not.
Whatever you believe reflects what you value. Values are beliefs that serve to guide our actions – sort of an internal guidance system. Values are important and time enduring. Companies often espouse certain values. Everyone embraces some kind of value system, even if they cannot point to a source.
Based on Chick-fil-A’s corporate purpose, it strongly suggests that Cathy looks to the Bible for his values. Basing one’s values on the Bible has the benefit of being anchored to a moral foundation that has been around a long time.
During interviews with nearly 80 leaders, two-thirds of whom were CEOs, business owners, or senior executives, I asked them what Biblical values were most relative to the marketplace today.
These men and women were people who had a reputation of integrating faith and vocation. The six most often referenced values were integrity, love, honesty, serving others, respect for others, and working as to the Lord.
I think most people could agree on the first five, regardless of whether or not they believe in God. But let’s look closer at these first five.
Integrity was among the top-10 words that people looked up on the online Merriam-Webster Dictionary between 2000 and 2010. Integrity means we are consistently authentic in our public and personal lives; we are the same person, we act the same way, wherever we are.
Love is a term that is often used and perhaps as often misunderstood. Love can be used in a variety of contexts. The Greeks used four words to define love in different situations.
One of my doctoral professors focused on one form of Greek love – agapao – which he says in his book, Be a Leader for God’s Sake, refers “to love in a social or moral sense, embracing the judgment and the deliberate assent of the will as a matter of principle, duty, and propriety.”
In the work setting, a leader would demonstrate this kind of love by concentrating more on the needs of people than the organization. This does not mean that the company goals or mission is not important, but rather that by loving people they work harder on behalf of the organization and its leaders.
Honesty is closely related to integrity. Honesty means more than telling the truth. Honesty means doing what you say you will do, saying what you mean, accepting only things that rightfully belong to you, and being genuine about who you are and what you can do.
Honesty also involves admitting mistakes you have made and taking responsibility for making things right, even when there are personal consequences. Extensive studies by the authors of The Leadership Challenge have found that honesty is the number one thing people desire in leaders.
Serving others is pretty straightforward until you look at the differences between cultures. Americans rate high in individualism. Studies show cultures like ours tend to focus more on ourselves and immediate family, while other cultures focus on others outside this small circle. Axioms like “look out for number one” reflect this notion.
Respect for others involves treating other people with dignity, adding to their sense of value or worth. Frank Byrne is quoted as saying, “respect is love in plain clothes.” Respect often opens the door for dialogue, which helps us understand each others’ perspectives.
In the debate about Chick-fil-A, a clash of “values” has been presented but with little discussion about the underlying values. We shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that the underlying values of Chik-Fil-A or at least its leadership are the very values the are the underpinning of many business successes, whether business owners have claimed them as “Biblical” or not.
And, if you asked most people, such values bring people together, rather than divide them.
large groups of people agree – and disagree – with the opinion of the
Chick-fil-A CEO on gay marriage. But the underlying values used by Chick-fil-A
and the universality of those values make good business sense. Before
barbecuing Chick-fil-A, perhaps we should consider these other important, less
Dr. Merlin Switzer is the author of the recently released book, Bold Leadership: Biblical Principles for Marketplace Impact, published by the Public Policy Institute at William Jessup University.