Rules are a means to control people and circumstances. They set boundary lines and clarify standards. Wise rules can be good for an organization but foolish rules can be devastating. Foolish rules are typically born out of an over-reaction to a challenge or unfavorable outcome in an attempt to gain more control over similar events in the future.
Rules that bring order and focus gain control in a positive way but rules designed to punish and constrain will most likely have a negative effect on an organization. We have a good example of a bad rule from Saul’s leadership of his troops.
Now the men of Israel were pressed to exhaustion that day, because Saul had placed them under an oath, saying, “Let a curse fall on anyone who eats before evening—before I have full revenge on my enemies.” So no one ate anything all day… But Jonathan had not heard his father’s command, and he dipped the end of his stick into a piece of honeycomb and ate the honey…But one of the men saw him and said, “Your father made the army take a strict oath that anyone who eats food today will be cursed.”… “My father has made trouble for us all!” Jonathan exclaimed. (1 Samuel 14:24-29 NLT)
Saul did a lot of things in a reactive mode. He was very much a “positional leader” who was more interested in asserting his power than gaining influence. He was very reactive in his leadership approach when given the opportunity to attack the Philistines. He made what turned out to be a foolish rule because he didn’t take time to seek counsel and think it through.
In haste, Saul made a rule that was designed to punish and constrain. He made his army take an oath to not eat until their enemies were defeated. This rule had two negative consequences: His army became weak as the day went on and his son Jonathan innocently broke the rule because he wasn’t present when it was implemented. Bad rules poorly communicated are very damaging to an organization.
Good rules make organizations better and create healthy cultures. Bad rules are made with little thought or consideration for their impact on the culture of the organization. They typically create more problems than they solve. Seeking godly counsel is a wise first step.
As a Christian leader, your rules should be seasoned with grace and mercy. Be sure to clearly communicate and explain how the rule will bring order and focus to help you reach your goals.
Be wise about your rules. Take time today to review the policies and procedures you have in your organization to be sure they bring order and focus. Do they help create a positive and productive culture? When creating rules, remember the golden rule and you’ll never go wrong.