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In the twenty-first episode of the “Saturdays at Seven” conversation series, Todd Ream talks with Matthew J. Quade, the Kimberly and Aaron P. Graff Professor in Christian Leadership and Business and Director of Christian Leadership and Ethics at Baylor University. Quade begins by talking about the unique opportunities and challenges that come when educating the present generation of students when it comes to ethical deliberation and formation. Ream then asks Quade about his own research and, in particular, about Quade’s research as it applies to the relationship shared by work and other dimensions of one’s life. They then close their conversation by exploring the relationship business professionals and business educators share with the Church and ways that relationship can be brought into closer expressions of mutual service.

Todd Ream: Welcome to Saturdays at Seven, Christian Scholar’s Review’s conversation series with thought leaders about the academic vocation and the relationship that vocation shares with the Church. My name is Todd Ream. I have the privilege of serving as the publisher for Christian Scholar’s Review and as the host for Saturdays at Seven. I also have the privilege of serving on the faculty and the administration at Indiana Wesleyan University.

Our guest is Matthew J. Quade, the Kimberly and Aaron P. Graff Professor in Christian Leadership and Business and Director of Christian Leadership and Ethics in the Hankamer School of Business at Baylor University. Thank you for joining us.

Matt Quade: Yeah, thank you for having me. It’s an honor to be here.

Todd Ream: In your estimation, Matt, what is the most pressing ethical concern facing today’s business students as they enter the workforce?

Matt Quade: Yeah, I think it’s a great question. It’s a question I think about a lot when I’m preparing to teach students here at Baylor. I teach primarily juniors and seniors here in our business school. And the thing that I think they’re facing, kind of to an astronomical level is a culture that is becoming increasingly more relativistic.

You know, I see these students who are being bombarded with messages that there is no ultimate truth, and that truth is kind of relative and whatever you want it to be in any circumstance. And it ebbs and flows. 

And I believe that a strong ethic in business or anywhere really requires a belief in some ultimate truth, otherwise there can be no wrong. And so I think that’s the thing that, that, man, just, I think it can be overwhelming for them. And in many ways, I don’t think they even realize that that’s what they’re facing. They’re almost numb to it at this point.

Todd Ream: In what ways then can the study of business ethics prepare students to face such a concern?

Matt Quade: You know, I think it’s really important that we realize that ethics are something that can be taught, something that can be trained in people. 

So when I’m teaching ethics classes what I try to help students see is that developing an ethical framework and an ethical decision making matrix for yourself or process to making ethical decisions is a lot like developing accounting skills or developing consulting skills. So much like a student would take classes in any business discipline and get better at those skills over time, over the course of their undergraduate degree or master’s degree, that the same thing can happen with business ethics. 

That we can give students frameworks that will help them process ethical dilemmas that they might face. And then allow them ,that when they step into the workplace, they’re better prepared for those things because they’ve done the hard work on the front end to put themselves in position to make good choices down the road.

Todd Ream: In what ways though, if any, do students simply need to learn to navigate such concerns via work experience?

Matt Quade: Yeah. You know, I think to some degree, just like those other business disciplines, until you’re actually doing the work yourself, it can be easy to go, well, this is just for a grade. It’s not the same as doing the actual work when I’m getting paid for it. And there’s more consequences on the line.

I think the same thing is true of ethics. It’s easy to make a decision in a class when you’re reading an ethics case study and you know, well, this has already taken place in the past. The company’s already felt the repercussions of their poor decisions and they’ve already readjusted for, right? It’s easy to make decisions in that circumstance, much more difficult when you’re facing it yourself. Um, so there’s certainly an element of, of work experience that’s required to get, to get better at decision making when it comes to ethics. 

But I believe that it’s really important that students lay a groundwork for those types of decisions so that they have a moral compass already in place before they step out into the workforce and they’re faced with those more pressing consequences and decisions, where what they do will have a greater impact on more people or on more organizations.

Todd Ream: Thank you. Students today are arguably more socially aware than their recent predecessors. In your estimation, has that sense of social awareness translated into a greater desire to grapple with ethical concerns they may face one day as business professionals?

Matt Quade: I wrestle with this a lot because I think, are they more socially aware or are they just more exposed to social issues than you or I were growing up? I think what’s definitely true is they have a stronger sense of what they believe but I think oftentimes it’s due to the kind of the siloing of information that exists.

And so, I think it’s made them have a stronger, stronger opinion in what they think they believe, but I’m not sure they have a great, kind of awareness of both sides of an issue oftentimes, right? Because they’ve only been reading news reports from one outlet or they’ve only been hearing one side of a story from parents or people who already share a similar belief as them. 

And so what I think actually they oftentimes need is a greater understanding of the value that comes from hearing both sides of the story or considering both sides of an argument. And I try to teach students, hey, let’s not be afraid of, let’s not be afraid of having our mind changed. But let’s actually have our eyes open to the idea that, hey, if I listen to the other side, I have a better understanding of what they’re experiencing, not because I’m thinking I might switch my opinion or come alongside them and join them in their view. But because it’ll help me better relate to them. And it’ll help me frankly, better share my view of what’s right and what’s wrong on a particular issue.

Todd Ream: Growing out of that greater sense of awareness they may have, due to exposure, what ethical concern, if any, is perhaps more pressing to them?

Matt Quade: I think students are really big on justice issues, anything that’s related to a sense of justice where someone’s being wronged. Um, and I think even in particular kind of around the treatment of people. So if people are impacted, I think, at least what I see with the students here at our university and some of the other young people I’m around, I think if it has to do with people, their alarm bells go off and they go, hey, this is wrong and something needs to be done about this. 

And they’ve certainly seen this for their entire young adult life. They’ve seen things in the news where if someone’s being wrong, then we really like take to social media and there’s an outcry of support for the person who’s been wronged. 

And so, if you’re talking about what’s the ethical issue or the social justice issue that most seems to be most compelling to them, I do think it’s anything that’s related to people, more so than things related to climate issues or not things that aren’t important, but if they’re less connected to individuals, I think students have a harder time seeing a reason to become engaged with it.

Todd Ream: Over the course of your career, in what ways, if any, has the preparation of students to grapple with ethical questions in the classroom changed? How’s pedagogical approaches and points of interaction changed over the course of your career?

Matt Quade: Yeah, I think it’s a little bit of kind of what I was just saying, and I think, I think it’s a lot harder now to get them to think through an issue from both sides because they’re so entrenched already in a particular view that’s already been formed in their mind from the news outlets they watch, or the movies they’ve watched, or the music they’ve listened to, where they really have already bought into one side of a story before they even kind of formed their own opinion on it, right? It’s like their opinions have been formed for them. Um, and so I think that’s the biggest challenge I’ve noticed in the, this is my 10th year at Baylor. 

And in the time I’ve been here and in the couple years before that, when I was teaching during my doctoral program, I think earlier on it was, it was easier for them to come into a situation and realize, hey, I really need to consider this situation from all angles and not already have my mind made up before I hear everyone out, so to speak. 

And so, man, I think that translates into the workplace in a way that’s potentially detrimental for them as future leaders is they have to realize, hey, I have to consider all angles to this situation. I consider all potential stakeholders who could be harmed by my decision, whether it’s employees or consumers or the community. I have to think through this through multiple angles and not just through this kind of limited lens that maybe I’m accustomed to viewing things through.

Todd Ream: Over the course of those 10 years that you’ve been teaching at Baylor, do you think the students that we’re graduating today are better prepared, perhaps, than their predecessors, or less well-prepared? Or is it maybe hard to make distinctions necessarily given where we’re at today?

Matt Quade: I think it’s difficult to make a distinction between better prepared or less well-prepared. But I think what’s definitely true is our students have, I think, a unique opportunity because there is so much information available, that they, I think actually, though they’re maybe not as good at trying to think of things from both sides of the issue, they have the ability to go out and get that information, right? 

Because of the accessibility of information to us, I think it’s actually easier for them to consider things from multiple angles, to play scenarios out, and even think about kind of the abilities we have with AI or advanced data analytics to really make better decisions and better consider consequences of those decisions on the front end because of those tools that we have from a technological standpoint.

Um, so in that regard, I would say better positioned to come out and be strong, ethical thinkers. How well prepared they are, I think kind of depends on maybe the education they’re receiving or how much they really have done the hard work to prepare themselves as they’ve gone through great institutions in this country and across the world to, to consider big picture questions and prepare themselves.

Todd Ream: Better positioned, yeah, I think that’s a great distinction that you’ve made there. Thank you. 

If I may, I want to transition now to ask you about your own preparation for the Christian academic vocation. And as you think back on that education, at what point did business ethics become central to your understanding of the academic vocation?

Matt Quade: Yeah. You know, I think about this question just as I think about my career and how I ended up here. This summer would mark 20 years since I graduated from my undergrad and kind of think about the story that, that the Lord has, has kind of written in my life vocationally over those 20 years. 

And now having spent all this time, about half that time in academia and doing research and teaching classes and having the vast majority of that work be on ethics, I go, well, that makes a lot of sense because at an early age, I was a high justice classic first child, strong sense of right and wrong, and was willing to share that opinion with you, right?

Todd Ream: You’re ahead of your generation. 

Matt Quade: That’s right, yes. It’s funny because I see a lot of that in my own firstborn in my family, now my son, who is very similar. Like, high justice, strong sense of right and wrong, and so, when I stepped into my PhD program, who had ended up being my dissertation advisor, Rebecca Greenbaum, who’s now at Rutgers she was doing a lot of research on ethics and ethical leadership.

And so, I had always kind of wanted to be a coach growing up, and there was something about leading people and influencing people that was always fascinating to me. And I loved reading about coaches, and so as I began to understand more and more kind of what research looked like in management and how you did those kinds of things, I began to go, man, there’s something about this idea of ethical leader leadership that’s really intriguing to me. 

And in that stage, in the early 2010s, is when it was really kind of at its largest inflection point in the literature. And so I just began to kind of dive in and do a lot of reading there and, and some of my early work, that’s a lot of where it was. It’s been something that is certainly helped me in teaching classes, but then also helped me to kind of expand out that research network into some tangential areas that’s been really fun to work on.

Todd Ream: You mentioned Rebecca Greenbaum. Were any other teachers, perhaps authors, and, or experiences more formative than others in terms of your sense of vocation?

Matt Quade: Yeah. So certainly Rebecca was huge key, as anybody who’s gone through it, doctoral program or a graduate degree. They had some sort of a dissertation advisor, a thesis advisor. They know how integral of a role that person plays in that person’s life. And so I’m super grateful to her.

Linda Treviño is someone who was kind of the one of the seminal authors on ethical leadership and actually teach out of a textbook that she wrote called Managing Business Ethics that so she’s kind of been a key voice in the behavioral ethics literature for a long time. 

In terms of my Christian kind of worldview and my Biblical worldview and how I think through vocation, which I know we’ll talk about a little bit more in a bit, I think about Tim Keller a lot. And so his book, Every Good Endeavor has been kind of foundational in my own life over the last 10 years, as I think about living on mission vocationally as an academic, as a professor at a Christian institution. And it’s a book I recommend and give to students a lot because I want them to go out into the marketplace as accountants or marketing professionals or supply chain professionals and, and be on mission for Christ in the secular marketplace.

Todd Ream: Yeah. Thank you. As an educator and scholar, then, what questions connect most deeply with your sense of vocation?

Matt Quade: Yeah, there’s really two questions that I think about. But when I think about vocation, I think about this idea that it comes from the Latin, the Latin word vocare, to call. So we’re being called into something, right?

It’s someone else is giving us a summons or an invitation to join in with something larger than ourselves. And so when I then think about vocation, I think kind of about two questions. And these are questions that I kind of always come back to myself, but also questions I’ll put in front of students.

The first one is how has the Lord gifted me? So like, what are the unique skills or giftings that I can really only attribute to the Lord, whether that’s a hard wiring for numbers or hard wiring for being strongly articulate or hard wiring for influence and communication skills, whatever those things are. What are those gifts that you feel like can only really be attributed to things that God has given you? 

And then the second question is kind of a two part question, but how can those gifts be best used to number one, serve the Lord? And number two, meet needs in today’s world?

So let’s not just use those gifts as Christians, like strong analytical skills or, or being highly creative. Let’s not just use those to make a ton of money, but let’s think about how I can use those skills in ways that serve the Lord, but also meet needs in a world that’s always changing, right? Constantly changing. How can we enter into influencing the culture in a positive way as Christians?

Todd Ream: Thank you. I want to talk a little bit about your own research now, if we could. 

One theme that defines a considerable percentage of your scholarly work is the relationship shared by one’s work and one’s life, often called in more popular terms, work-life balance, and we’ll get your impressions of that particular phrase here in just a little bit. 

But how have questions concerning the relationship between one’s work and one’s life changed, if at all, over the course of your career and the time you’ve been doing research in that area?

Matt Quade: Yeah it’s changed a lot, honestly. So when I started my doctoral program and even the first part of my career here at Baylor, work-life issues, the work-life interface, as we would call it or the work-family interface, was not something I researched at all. Now thinking back on that, it’s kind of funny to me that I didn’t because it’s something that I really love studying because it’s something that’s so important to me in my own life.

But really over the course of the last five years, it’s grown a lot. And I think that has to do with kind of having a growing family myself. My oldest is 10 and my youngest is two with another on the way. And so, kind of experiencing this growing need to try and figure out how to maintain some sense of balance I became more interested in wanting to study that myself. 

Kind of the nexus for that was my wife and I adopted one of our children, Joshua in 2018. And so I really kind of wanted to do a passion project from a research standpoint on something that was having to do with adoption. And so I began doing some work on organizational support for adoption. And what does that look like? And how do employees feel supported by those types of policies? 

And so I began partnering with a faculty member here, Baylor, Dawn Carlson, who I know you know as well. Um, and she’s kind of a world renowned researcher in work-family issues and, and so I’ve really begun to do a lot of work with her. And most every question I’ve been asking in the last five years since then have been related in some way to work-family issues and we’ve got some ongoing research right now out under review at different outlets on the impact of caregiving for employees. 

So, you know those people who are serving as caregivers for aging parents or relatives who are suffering through something. What does that look like? And how do they manage both of those things? And so I’ve just enjoyed it a lot. I’m kind of long winded on that one. I apologize. But it’s been a lot of fun.

Todd Ream: Yeah, no, that’s wonderful. Very important too. Now, just for folks who are playing at home in terms of trying to keep track of how many children you exactly have, I was counting three as you were speaking there, but I know that the total number comes to five here in the near future when your wife gives birth here soon. So-

Matt Quade: Yes. So we’ve got four currently. We have three boys that are 10, 8, and 8. We’ve got a little girl who’s 2 and then another girl on the way in late May. So, the Lord has blessed us and we’re very grateful.

Todd Ream: Yeah, yeah, no, that’s wonderful. As echoed just a few minutes ago when speaking of the relationship shared by work and life, one often hears the term balance as being indicative of an optimal relationship between the two. 

What is your estimation of work-life balance and that particular phrase, in that sense of it being sort of an optimal or a possible relationship?

Matt Quade: Yeah. So it’s funny because as I’ve had different leaders come into my classes, this is a question that comes up a lot that students will ask because they’re curious, like, how do these leaders in really high positions, like, how do you balance this? 

Because I think one thing that’s definitely true of this, this kind of upcoming generation, the generations you know, that are entering the workforce is they’re very interested in having some sense of balance between what they do at work and what they get to do at home.

They always ask these questions and I’ve seen so many leaders basically say that they don’t believe in balance. They don’t believe in work-life balance and- but most of them, particularly in a Christian context, are saying that the family is very important to them. So I’m kind of like, well, that’s interesting. Why are you saying balance doesn’t matter or that balance isn’t possible or doesn’t exist? 

And I think what most of the time is coming through, and I think this is true in my own life, is that thinking about it as balance can kind of be dangerous because there is no true perfect level of balance that’s really possible. Like, you’re always going to be sort of in this state of, man, I wish I was able to give more at home than I’m currently giving, or, man, I wish I was able to give more at work than I’m currently giving. And so, the idea of kind of true perfect balance is maybe not really possible. 

And so maybe a better way to think through it is that, hey, as a Christian, I really ought not forsake either of these domains. I’m called to, as a Christian, live in both of these environments and bring my whole self to both of these environments as a Christ-follower. And so, I need to think through how I live well in both of these spaces without neglecting one for the sake of the other.

And so, there’s there’s two terms in literature called work-family enrichment and work-family conflict. So in some ways, it’s like, well, how do I have more enrichment, right? How do I let my work enrich my family or how do I let my family enrich my work? And if I can focus on the enrichment piece of, of balancing these two, that’s better than if I’m living in the conflict where one’s causing conflict for the other.

Todd Ream: Are there certain markers that you encourage students to sort of think about or and or take note at this point in their lives? So that when they find themselves in particular situations they can sort of think, yeah, in terms of enrichment, I’m sort of here and I need to make some adjustments, or in terms of conflict, I’m sort of here and I need to make some adjustments.

Are there, are there any markers, ways of thinking, frameworks that you think could stick with them that you try to share?

Matt Quade: Yeah, I think one of the biggest things is, we talk about this a lot in my classes, but it’s just the importance of self-reflection. You know, we are so busy these days as a society, particularly in America. We’re probably the worst at it in some ways across the world, as you think about the ways that the amount of hours that we work and the lack of vacation time that we often take. The number of unused vacation days that people have, right, stored up, is that, man, we need to slow down and we need to reflect.

And so I try to teach students kind of a model of, of, of weekly, monthly and quarterly reflection. Like, what does that look like to have little pieces of it? And then maybe each week you’re just trying to sit down for about 30 minutes and then maybe each month you’re trying to sit down for a little bit longer session. And then maybe once a quarter, you’re trying to spend about half a day, kind of reflecting on the experiences you’re having, why you’re feeling more drained as you, as you get home each day. Or why you’re why you’re feeling behind at work all the time. Maybe it’s because you’re spending too much time at home or too much time investing in the community and not enough time on your job that’s more demanding in this season.

And so I try to really help them see that the markers are usually there if you’ll slow down enough to look for them or write them down. To ask some good questions, particularly of those people who know you best, whether it’s a spouse or roommate or someone in a small group at church, like usually these people who we’ve let in, who know us well can kind of see because they’ve been hearing our stories. So they could, they could give us some feedback on what we’ve been experiencing. And so I think the biggest key is just slowing down and making some time for some reflection.

Todd Ream: That’s very thoughtful and very helpful. Thank you. If one’s committed to being a good spouse, good parent, invested citizen in a local community, are there roles or perhaps even professions in your estimation that young professionals should think about avoiding, or at least avoid for a season?

Matt Quade: Yeah, my immediate response is kind of an emphatic no, because I want Christians to inhabit every needed space in the marketplace, right? As long as those spaces are not sinful, right? 

And you’ve probably experienced this in people that you’ve met and worked with along the years, like, there are men and women who’ve navigated the most demanding of positions, in ways that didn’t neglect their important roles at home or in the Church or in the community. 

And so to tell students like, hey, you should avoid going and working on Wall Street because that’s going to be really demanding. I’d go, well, no, like as a Christian, you need to be mindful that it could be demanding and you need to put some measures in place to help you as a Christian know how you’re going to navigate that. But I don’t want them to avoid it. Right? 

I have a former student who went to Duke Law School and he’s now clerking for a Supreme Court justice here in Texas. It’s like a highly demanding position, right? Where he’s working crazy hours. And every time I talk to him, I’m kind of asking him those questions and he’s already thought of these things far before I would ask him, but it’s like he knows this is a busy season. And so he’s trying to put things in place that will help him navigate this busy season, where he’s definitely going to be spending more time at work than others might be spending it at work in this life stage that he’s currently in, in his mid twenties. But he also knows this is an investment for a future position or a future opportunity that the Lord might have for him to do really important or meaningful work. 

And so I think more than anything, we need to help young people have their eyes opened to kind of what’s required in different seasons and how to put things in place that will help them navigate those demanding seasons well, because I don’t think there’s ever a time where we’re called in Scripture to live in isolation or to live with abandonment for our, for our connection to the Lord via prayer and via time in the Scriptures. And, and so there’s going to be ebbs and flows to what that looks like over the course of one’s career. 

But yeah, I think there’s, there’s solutions out there. There’s people who’ve walked that road before you so getting good mentors can help with that as well. But yeah, as Christian leaders, let’s make sure we drive young people into all areas of the marketplace so that they can be light of the world.

Todd Ream: One last set of questions, if I may, I want to ask about the relationship that the Church shares with the formation of business professionals and business professionals and the formation they receive in Church-related universities. 

In your estimation, what role, if any, should the Church play in terms of how young people discern their sense of vocation as business professionals?

Matt Quade: Yeah, I’d say a large role. You know, I mean, to me, the Christians should do this better than anyone when it comes to seeing their work having purpose and seeing their work as a vocation unto someone larger than yourself, where it’s not just about making money and building a kingdom for yourself and your family.

And so I would say the Church has the opportunity to, to play a large role. Most primarily, I think by helping people always see that their identity is in Christ, and that if your identity is firmly rooted in Christ, that it’s not rooted in how much money you make or how important your position is or which organization you work for, that’s the ultimate answer, right? It’s the importance of the Gospel, that we were dead in our sin, we’re made alive in Christ and without Him, we really have nothing. 

If that’s being preached and if people are hearing that message, and they really have that mindset, it should transform how they think about their work. It should transform how they think about their roles as employee, spouse, parent, citizen, churchgoer. So I believe more than anything, it’s just important that Christians maintain their Biblical worldview and that it’s paramount to everything they do, whether it be at home or, or in the workspace.

Todd Ream: Thank you. What relationship, if any, should business ethicists, people like yourselves, professionals and scholars such as yourselves, share with the Church in terms of the formation of virtues exercised then by business professionals?

Matt Quade: I would say it depends on if the business ethicist is a Christian because I would contend that the Church has the answer in the form of God’s Word, right? And so, I want people to see God’s Word as truth and let truth inform practice, right? Let truth inform science rather than science informing truth. For me, I think it’s less about business ethicists enlightening the Church and more Christians, the Church enlightening what’s happening in practice. 

Because as Christians, if we believe the Bible is the ultimate truth, I would contend we have all the right answers, right? I would contend we ought to be the best ethicists out there because we are working from a firm, unchanging, unchangeable, the same yesterday, today, and forever kind of view on what is right and what is wrong. 

And so it doesn’t mean that, that, that the Church can be ignorant of what is happening in today’s culture and business. Um, and so I think there’s value in those relationships taking place and there being synergies across those lines, but I think it ought to be the Church who is leading out in those conversations because they already have the right answers.

Todd Ream: In what ways could that leading out then be helpful in terms of, for example, evaluating ethical lapses when they occur, or at least recognizing ethical lapses when they occur even?

Matt Quade: I think it’s great, right? I think for me, that’s one of the things that gives me the most comfort as an, as kind of an ethical thinker and as someone who teaches ethics is I don’t feel like my ethic is ever really changing. I don’t feel like my view of right and wrong is really ever changing. And I feel like I have something to go back and point to. 

I struggle a lot with the idea of those who have more of a relativistic approach who go, well, on this issue, it’s this like, but down the road, I might be in a, in a circumstance in which I would actually contradict that because this would feel more right then, you know. And it’s like, well, no. Like, if I’m a Christian and I believe in the sanctity of life, then I’m always going to be in this, believe in the sanctity of life for the unborn, for the born, for those who are marginalized. Like I really need to be pro-life and in every meaning of the word, every meaning of the phrase. Right? 

And so, to me, the Bible ought to really kind of have kind of the prescriptive answers of what we ought to do, but it also has kind of the reactive answers of how we ought to respond to situations. 

You talk about ethical lapses, like when we’ve, when we have fallen, when we have failed- I mean, I failed last night as a parent in a way that I regretted instantly after I got upset with one of my kids at the dinner table. And that was an ethical lapse, right? Like where I didn’t meet the standard I had for myself, but also then have a, have a guide for how to respond in that moment, which is to repent, ask forgiveness from, from the Lord, but also ask forgiveness from my son, who I was unkind to, who I spoke ill towards, right?

Like, so I think the Bible is this beautiful picture of how to do things right on the front end, but also how to fix things, after you’ve made a mistake.

Todd Ream: In what ways that relationship between business ethicists and the Church then be brought to bear in terms of evaluating structures? We talk a lot about structures and the structural nature of our society today. Structures that may create conditions in which these lapses may be more likely than they would be otherwise.

Matt Quade: Yeah, I think sometimes we can be naive to just sort of make one small decision after another and not think enough strategically or enough kind of in a macro sense from a 35,000 foot view of like, how to do things better, how to build better structures, how to build better organizations that will prevent mistakes, that will prevent failures, that will prevent harm maybe in a community.

And so I tend to be a more micro level thinker. So that’s one of my shortcomings, to be honest with you, I think about, oh, I know how to manage one person one-on-one, or I know how to help guide someone to lead a team of 10. 

But I struggle with the idea of how do I help someone see the bigger picture of the 35,000 foot view of how to lead an organization of 10,000 or 100,000 employees? And so, I would just say it’s hugely important that we think about those things. 

And I think the Bible, again, speaks to how we care for, how we live in communities, and how it matters what kind of citizens we are as organizations. Like it matters that we’re creating products or services that don’t have harm on the economy or the community or the physical environment in which we operate, right? And so, I do think it’s key that we build structures or build organizations that serve to do good and not do harm.

Todd Ream: Thank you. As we close out our conversation together then, I gotta ask of the concerns with which you and your colleagues are grappling in terms of the ethical formation of business professionals, is there a topic you’d like to hear addressed with greater frequency in the Church?

Matt Quade: I think some of my most recent work that I’ve only published one paper on but a lot of my ongoing research, which will hopefully be published in the next few years, is on this topic of amoral management, right?

So it’s the idea that, it’s really the idea that we’re silent on issues that are, that, that have ethical connotations to them, right? So, you can kind of think of three buckets of ethics-based leadership. There would be ethical leaders, which I talked about earlier in our conversation. These are people who lead out when it comes to ethics, they talk about it and they demonstrate it.

There’d be unethical leaders, which would be obvious. They do the opposite, right? They would lead out in bad practices. They would lead out in lying, cheating, stealing to get ahead nefarious ways of leading and engaging in business. 

And then there’d be the ethically neutral or the amoral leader, right? The person who’s in the middle, and we don’t really know what they are as a leader because they refrain from engaging when ethical issues are at play. 

There’s research out there that would suggest that these three types of ethics-based leadership styles that the middle one is the most common, and I think that’s certainly true in practice because so many people are afraid to have the hard conversations, right? 

Like if we’re real, an ethics conversation is never fun to have as a leader. Like you don’t want to sit someone down and say, hey, you know what? I brought you in and we need to have this conversation about ethics, right? Because I’m immediately positioning myself as: well, I’ve done nothing wrong. And let me tell you all the things you’ve been doing wrong. And so it’s easier to just sort of disengage and remain amoral. And so that’s a long way of kind of setting up my answer to your question. 

But for me, then it centers on Matthew 5. We have a program here at Baylor in the business school that I get to lead. It’s called Christian Leadership and Business. And it’s a cohort of students every year from 30 to 40 students, and we walk them through some Biblical models of leadership. Not specific people in the Bible but a framework that’s laid out in Scripture.

And so in the spring in particular, we talked through Matthew 5:11-16. And verse 11 is the end of the Beatitudes, when Jesus says, blessed are you when others will revile you and persecute you; utter all kinds of evil against you. And that we’re to rejoice and be glad because, we’re going to be rewarded in heaven. Right? And they’ve persecuted people before us for the same reason. Right? 

And then He transitions and He talks about the idea that we’re the salt of the earth. We ought to be different. We bring flavor and context to the environments in which we’re in. And then He gets into this idea of being the light of the world, which is something I referenced earlier, right? That we’re a city set on a hill. And so I would just contend that as Christian leaders in particular, if we’re truly the light of the world, then there’s no place for us to be amoral as leaders. 

There’s no place for us to be ethically neutral. We have to speak up, right? We have to be willing to engage in hard conversations. We have to be willing to bring someone in and hold them accountable for mistakes that they’ve made when it comes to ethics. We have to train people up in the way that they should go in our organization so that they make decisions that won’t be harmful to their fellow coworkers or to the customers or to the communities in which we operate.

And so for me, I don’t think that’s really a passage that isn’t preached a lot, right? In fact, the idea of being a light of the world is talked about a lot, but I don’t think that we talk about it in terms of what that looks like in the marketplace often. And I think for Christian leaders, it’s a really clear and compelling idea that, hey, no, being a light in the world means that I need to stand up. I need to carry my cross and I need to speak up for what is right in the world.

Todd Ream: Thank you. An important way to end our conversation together. Thank you very much. 

Our guest has been Matthew J. Quade, Kimberly and Aaron P. Graff Professor in Christian Leadership and Business, Director of Christian Leadership and Ethics in the Hankamer School of Business at Baylor University. Thank you for taking the time to share your insights and your wisdom with us.

Matt Quade: Yes. Thank you. Thank you again so much for having me. It’s been a pleasure.

Todd Ream: Thank you for joining us for Saturdays at Seven, Christian Scholar’s Review’s conversation series with thought leaders about the academic vocation and the relationship that vocation shares with the Church. We invite you to join us again next week for Saturdays at Seven.

Todd C. Ream

Indiana Wesleyan University
Todd C. Ream is Honors Professor of Humanities and Executive Director of Faculty Research and Scholarship at Indiana Wesleyan University, Senior Fellow for Public Engagement for the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities, Senior Fellow for Programming for the Lumen Research Institute, and Publisher for Christian Scholar’s Review.  He is the author and editor of numerous books including (with Jerry Pattengale) The Anxious Middle: Planning for the Future of the Christian College (Baylor University Press, September 15, 2023).

One Comment

  • Duane Covrig says:

    I love listening to your Saturday Series. I just thought I would let you know I am listening, so I hope you keep doing the hard work of producing this series.