Seven Principles of Sound Governance

December 24, 2017

In the December Round Table meetings we discussed the “7 Principles of Sound Governance.”


Ultimately we addressed the seven attributes of good governance from the perspective of Scripture.  We asked, what if the Trinity is “governance” and “the church” is the “company”?  How would the seven attributes apply?  How does God, the Three in One, “govern” us, and what can we learn from that?

  • Tell the truth.  Be honest in and out of season.  Christ was always 100% honest, but He communicated His honest comments in ways that were most effective for the listener.  For the repentant sinner, He told them to leave their life of sin.  For the self-righteous, He was brutally direct about the condition of their spirit.  For the crowds, He taught in parables to make deep truths more accessible.  When we govern (or lead) we need to consider honesty in those terms.
  • Be faithful and fair.  We wanted to add “grace”, because we were very thankful that God isn’t JUST fair, but also extends grace.  If He was just “fair”, we would be bound for hell.
  • Embrace accountability and insist on it.  Christ was very clear about what the church needs to be accountable for.  It isn’t a bunch of minutiae; He focused on the key attributes of relationship with Him.  Likewise, when we govern/lead we should keep our focus on the high level deliverables, not the minutiae.
  • Respect the governed and respect the government.  When Jesus said “give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s,” He was showing significant respect for the governed (because our human governments are actually governed by God).  We should do likewise.  Respect those who govern us and, when we delegate, respect the rights of those to whom we have delegated.
  • Govern with humility. Christ was the ultimate of humility.  We should pick up trash on the ground (not walk over it), pitch in to help when we can, and basically consider others better than ourselves.
  • Serve the governed, not the systems and people of government. Jesus was born into a gigantic cobweb of man-made systems that had sprung up over the centuries from a few God-given directives.  He lived within most of those systems, and only really challenged the ones that got in the way of what really mattered … relationship with God.  Likewise, when we govern/lead with wisdom we need to keep our focus on what really matters, and pick our battles carefully.
  • Acknowledge the nature of government, and of man.  We started by talking about the nature of government, and of man.  Jesus said He did not trust Himself to men because He knows what is in a man.  That lead us to realize that the nature of both government and man is flawed, and is entirely incomplete and inadequate except when it is in full relationship with God.  Ownership, then, requires that we be on our knees seeking God at all times.  This realization also drives the other attributes (they are intertwined) … it drives humility, respect, accountability, etc.



Prior to the challenge we reviewed the seven principles (trying to keep into context the application to business)

  • Owners have extreme independence – “it is my show”
  • Do not want to be open and honest – avoid conflict and accountability
  • Service to self in today’s world in counter-cultural
  • Through the world’s lens – humility = weakness
  • The nature of fallen man
  • Lack of pure motives – “hidden agendas”
  • Too complicated
  • West Michigan “nice” attitude
  • Fear, ego, pride, etc.
  • Inability to transfer a healthy culture to the next generation of leadership and / or ownership
  • Do not want to mentored – “lack of a teachable spirit”
  • Lack of mentors – “takes too much time”
  • Avoidance is easier (for the time being)
  • Lack of candor


  • Truthful evaluations – Top 5 strengths vs. Top 5 weaknesses – create a formal process for the top leader with input from the team
  • Strong self-evaluations
  • Self-discovery
  • Simplify the message and the process (and even the organizational structure)
  • Understand “fairness” and the impact when people feel things are not fair
  • Identify roadblocks to success – be honest, listen, show humility
  • Watch the “company you keep”
  • Develop strong core principles and values – live by them / re-enforce them
  • Create a governance process
  • At the end of each meeting give people the opportunity to cover the last 10% = “what are we missing or lacking or didn’t cover?” or “what are you going to tell your spouse when you get home tonight about this meeting – good or bad?”


  • Understand the roadblocks
  • Be clear on fairness and the impact of people being treated “unfair”
  • Truthful evaluations – formal process
  • Humility – starts with your relationship with God / always look to the cross
  • Develop candor and fairness
  • Covering the last 10%
  • Keep in mind the good for the company


Governance Means:

  • Compliance
  • Authority
  • Leadership principle

How does governance apply to business?

  • We govern ourselves and others

What do the 7 Principles mean to us?

  • Code of conduct
  • Follow them – stems from failures
  • Code of ethics training

What do the 1st and 2nd principles really align to us?

  • Impact – negative + positive

Theme – about the person that you’re service.

  • Leaders are meant to serve the people
  • Empowerment of others – making those around you better
  • Serve the people:
    • Communicate
    • Respect their views
    • Share the big picture
  • Seek the truth – based on all perspectives

What is a principle?

  • A lighthouse in your life
  • Keeps you on the straight and narrow
  • A standard
  • Foundation – to be better & to guide us & demonstrate what you stand for.
  • You will crash if you don’t have principles
  • If you’re in the dark, you don’t have them
  • We’re not bad people / leadership; when we’re in the dark, we can’t see



Tell the Truth – It can be skewed so easily

Take Away

  • These 7 principles are a wish list (or prayer list) from a political stand point
  • Self-governance – people don’t see everything we do at all times
    • Our inner conscious / drive to do the right thing
  • Make these to be auto-pilot – am I truly exemplifying these values?
  • Building each other up – how can we be lighthouses in the world to others?
    • And not look like we are know-it-alls?
  • Explain where you’re coming from
  • Humility is key
  • Become a good story teller – “Don’t bleed all over others – share your scars”
  • Saying “I’m sorry” – be willing to acknowledge (especially when you have the ultimate authority)
  • End result of sound governance:
    • A good night’s sleep – peace & contentment
    • Trust, loyalty, the right employee retention

How do we be more proactive?

  • Don’t forget to cast the vision to others
  • Serve our people and their needs



  • Many perspectives
  • The Word tells us the real truth
  • Makes life simpler to walk through when you know it
  • Sales people must be trust advisors – develop relationships with others
  • The sale is only the starting point
  • Alternate truth (from the media)
  • Don’t be overly judgmental & understand the truth of others perspectives
  • We’re not always willing to expand our truth
  • Everybody is emotionally driven
  • Our anxieties are what hold us back – 30 years ago vs. today
    • How different were people with mental illness back then vs. now? Not very much at all -appears worse today due to heightened awareness and social media
  • It’s hard for people to discern the standard
  • BOOK: Colin Powell – “What You Know, Think, The difference Between the Two”
  • Review an issue with multiple options – take out emotional involvement
  • Focus on the idea or issue

Instilling Trust:

  • How do you get individual buy in of these principles and create the culture to where that’s the norm and not the exception?
    • State it as part of your culture
  • Be Respectful
  • Govern with humility
  • Serve the people, not the system so that they can support the system
  • Marketing is your message of the truth – it can be propaganda

Take Away

  • We have to be patient to allow the team to understand the truth
  • Come up with a collective truth
  • Take people from where they are & take them to where you want them to go
  • Model the truth that you know
    • Lead from back when needed
  • We can disagree behind closed doors but we need to agree on the same goal
  • Reinforcing / modeling / adherence to this principle
  • Model what we say we want to do


What is our interpretation of the 7 Principles of Sound Governance?

  • Leading / managing a certain way; ethically
  • Can’t lie – if you lie to customers you have nothing
  • Integrity, you’re not always watched as a leader. If you don’t have a peer review to help guide you – like a mentor / overseer
  • Sound Business Acumen – a lot of great people also should / shouldn’t lead (an aspect) of a company
  • Mentoring – within & outside your company
  • Humility
  • Servant leadership & empathy
    • Serving & caring for others
    • There’s a balance between serving/caring & holding them accountable
    • “Cure period” – where you have crucial conversations that either leads to performance improvement or separation/termination
  • Discipline – the greatest form of love
    • Constructive criticism
    • Fair & firm
    • Boundaries – there’s a greater good that needs to be protected
    • Accountability is a form of caring
  • Patience – leading people takes a lot of this
  • Creativity
  • Ingenuity
  • Personality / Culture
  • Emotional stability
  • Passionate for products/service/business model