Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Biblical Positive-Thinking Applied to Leadership

"I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.”[1] This biblical verse captures the extraordinary optimism of Norman Vincent Peale. Belief, expectation, and faith—his pillars of the Christian religion—are internals that can move mountains and thus get results. This biblically-based recipe for positive thinking can be applied to leadership, which, after all, is results-oriented. Its desired objective is of course the realization of a vision. Simply put, if religion can be used to do better in a job as Peale insists,[2] this holds for the task of leading other people, which consists of formulating and selling a vision.

A change inside a leader can do wonders in moving a vision’s mountain toward being actualized. From the Bible, “(W)hosoever shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; and shall not doubt in his heart, but shall believe that those things which he saith shall come to pass; he shall have whatsoever he saith.”[3] A vision may seem impossible but for such faith in a believer that eliminates any doubt. Peale is astonishing in his insistence that that faith as belief and expectation can deliver actual results, regardless of how high external obstacles are. “According to your faith be it unto you.”[4] In fact, “(i)f ye have faith . . . nothing shall be impossible unto you.”[5] A leader with such faith can count on his or her vision being realized. What counts is in the leader’s mind.[6] A leader who doubts and is more generally habituated to negative thinking must transform his or her thought pattern before the benefits of faith can be realized.
Undergirding his theory, Peale claims as a “well-defined and authentic principle” the assumption “that what the mind profoundly expects it tends to receive.”[7] Expect your vision, and that belief itself can move mountains such that your vision is realized by others and the empirical world is changed. Specifically, “(w)ith the creative force of belief you stimulate that particular gathering together of circumstances” which brings your vision to pass.[8] The power of belief can change the external world such that it is more favorable to the objective.
[The expanded essay is a chapter in Christianized Ethical Leadership]

1. Phil. 4:13. Cited from Norman Vincent Peale, The Power of Positive Thinking (New York: Touchstone, 2015), p. 3.

2. Norman Peale, Power of Positive Thinking, p. 48

3. Mk. 11:23. From Peale, The Power of Positive Thinking, p. 98.

4. Matt. 9:29. From Peale, The Power of Positive Thinking, p. 92.

5. Matt. 17:20. From Peale, The Power of Positive Thinking, p. 10

6. Here Peale cites Karl Menninger, who claimed that attitudes “are more important than facts.” Peale, The Power of Positive Thinking, p. 10.

7. Ibid., p. 94.

8. Ibid., p. 91.