What local leaders says about values and leadership

“The nature of our culture has become me first instead of others first. Christian leaders bring a needed set of values into the work environment and the business world.”

— Scott Woods, president and CEO, South Carolina Federal Credit Union

“You have to view yourself as a shepherd. Those who are wandering are the sheep. You need to bring the sheep back in.”

— Stephanie Ganaway- Pasley, judge, Charleston County Summary Court

“Think of the power and reach that business has in our community. For a CEO to speak to another CEO at that level, rather than it coming from your pastor, you’re talking about an extremely important conversation.”

— Mark Smith, co-owner, McAlister-Smith Funeral and Cremation

“Adhering to principles in the Bible and being in sync with God makes things happen that wouldn’t ordinarily happen.”

— Jerry Young, founder and president, Charleston Leadership Foundation

“This is one of the most significant events in the life of the school.”

— Jairy C. Hunter Jr., president, Charleston Southern University

Ask Scott Woods what he does for a living, and he’ll mention working for the South Carolina Federal Credit Union.

Prayer breakfast

The Charleston Leadership Foundation unites Christian leaders through an annual prayer breakfast.

This year’s breakfast will be at 7:15 a.m. Nov. 6 at the North Charleston Convention Center.

The speaker will be Phil Cooke, an internationally known writer who has produced media programming around the world. In the process, he has been shot at, survived two military coups, fallen out of a helicopter and threatened with imprisonment.

Through his company, Cooke Pictures in California, he’s helped large nonprofits and leaders tell their stories.

He has written several books including “Jolt!: Get the Jump on a World That’s Constantly Changing.” He also blogs for The Huffington Post and is a contributor to Fast Company, Forbes.com and FoxNews.com.

For more, go www.clf1670.org or call 402-4588.

If pressed, he might add that he works in management.

In fact, he’s president and CEO.

Humility is a big part of why he doesn’t wear the title on gold cuff links. Woods also knows that stereotypes of finance chieftains abound today. Greedy. Self-serving. Unethical.

Yet, Woods is a Christian leader, one guided by values dictated in Scripture. For the 10 years he has walked from the credit union parking lot to his office, he has prayed:

Thank you, Lord, for this amazing opportunity.

Guide me with your judgment, guidance and wisdom.

Please give me a servant’s heart. Amen.

“This is a big responsibility,” Woods says. “We’ve got almost $1.5 billion in other people’s money and 400 employees. I can’t do that alone.”

In a day when greed and self-service seem to dominate marketplace values, more leaders like Woods should be coming down the university pike thanks to the new Whitfield Center for Christian Leadership at Charleston Southern University, where Woods is a former trustee and chairman.

The center’s goal: Create marketplace leaders who serve something more than the almighty dollar.

Leadership center

It’s merely a building, a two-story brick one smack in the middle of CSU’s North Charleston campus. But the new $7.4 million Christian leadership center stands a symbol of what the school hopes to accomplish.

CSU wants to produce students prepared by high-quality scholars, especially in its School of Christian Studies, who then will take their faith out into the world — and then lead it.

Some students will become pastors. Others principals, coaches, nurses, judges, business owners, you name it.

“When you go, you are taking with you the presence of Christ into that (work) place,” CSU President Jairy C. Hunter says. “They are bringing the Holy Spirit with them.”

When students arrive at the private Christian college, even those raised in churches often lack a suitable depth of biblical knowledge. CSU’s academics aim to provide that and teach them to lead according to Christian tenets, says Michael Bryant, Christian Studies dean.

“We’re seeking to ignite the hearts and minds of these emerging leaders to think more Christian-ly and to lead as Jesus leads,” says Rick Brewer, CSU vice president of student affairs and athletics.

The center also marks the maturation and growth of a school once named Baptist College at Charleston that graduated its first class in 1969. It has grown from 588 students to 3,300 and now offers everything from God in the Workplace programs to leadership seminars to mission opportunities.

“The new building signifies a collection of all these things and packages them,” says Jerry Young, Charleston Leadership Foundation president. “It makes you relevant to the whole Christian community.”

Different scorecard

Mark Smith wasn’t born into the dapper dark suit he now wears. He was raised by a single mom in rural Bamberg who relied on food stamps.

But a local funeral home owner suggested Smith go to mortuary school and come back to work with him. Perhaps he could take over the business.

Smith became the first in his family to attend college, where he met his future wife. They eventually moved to Charleston, and he became co-owner of McAlister-Smith Funeral and Cremation.

At one point, he felt the Holy Spirit tell him, “You need to get busy — and you need to get busy building my kingdom,” Smith recalls.

The business world can be one of comparing balance sheets and market share. Sure, profits are critical. But he wondered: Are they life’s real goals?

What if he thought of himself as akin to a pastor at work, one serving Christ and the local community?

“When you have a different type of scorecard, it changes the whole way you think,” he says.

He began working with CSU and the Charleston Leadership Foundation where he met other like-minded leaders.

“Think of the power and reach that business has in our community,” Smith says. “For a CEO to speak to another CEO at that level, rather than it coming from your pastor, you’re talking about an extremely important conversation.”

After all, people spend far more time at work than they do at church.

And in the funeral home business, his employees help people raw with grief after the death of a loved one. Smith remains open to conversations that might lead people to faith.

A common customer request? Help finding clergy for funeral services. Many folks lack that relationship, so Smith directs them to clergy with hope the contact leads to lasting bonds.

And for his employees, Smith provides prayer time and small group Bible studies. Nobody is required to take part, nor will it show up on employee evaluations, he says.

“Nonbelievers are not going to be discriminated against,” Smith says. “They are invited to join us in prayer, but they are not required to join.”

Altruism at heart

When prominent atheists Richard Dawkins and Herb Silverman took the stage at the College of Charleston in March, they told an overflow crowd that atheists are altruistic people — and don’t require the heavy hand of morality from above for motivation.

Applause thundered through the Physicians Memorial Auditorium.

Local Christian leaders actually agree. Faith is not the sole motivator of things like integrity, honesty and generosity.

But Christians are expected to live by, and ultimately arejudged upon, values spelled out in Scripture, Woods says.

“Values mean different things to different people,” Woods says. “The thing I find attractive about Christian values is that the way they are defined in the Bible is absolute.”

For instance, the Bible mandates integrity. Ditto for service to others (yes, even to your boss), so his credit union has a foundation and organizes employees to do volunteer work.

And what about loyalty?

Woods points to the story of Judas Iscariot, who sold out his team for money.

“How many CEOs have sold out and made companies fail because they put their own interests first?” Woods asks. “Greed just totally took them down.”

The Bible also mandates Christian leaders treat their workers as more than employee numbers, he says. For instance, when the credit union closed one of its Georgetown offices, it paid workers severance and offered resume and job-hunting assistance. Woods reached out to other credit unions in the area to talk up his former employees.

“They were separated with dignity for being people, not head counts,” Woods says.

However, it also is important that people feel welcome on his workforce whatever their religious views, he says.

“I never shy away from talking about my faith, but it’s all got to be tempered,” he says. “Some people think if you’re not being intrusive, you’re not being true to the Lord. That’s not so.”

From the bench

As a Charleston County Summary Court judge, Stephanie Ganaway-Pasley’s job is to uphold the laws of South Carolina, civil and criminal.

But her faith commands her to do so with spiritual gentleness, steering those who have made bad decisions, who are lost or headed down broken paths, toward punishment and, hopefully, better decisions ahead.

“You have to view yourself as a shepherd. Those who are wandering are the sheep,” she says. “You need to bring the sheep back in.”

At times, that requires handing down maximum sentences. Others times, minimum ones.

“When they walk out, they should still feel like human beings,” she says, ones whose penalties are fair.

That means not yelling, not demeaning those who come before her, unlike the Judge Judys of the world.

“From the bench is not the time to talk about faith,” adds Ganaway-Pasley, a CSU graduate and parent. “It’s a time to live through my faith.”

Prayer at breakfast

Even before the new center opened, the seeds of local Christian leadership had been planted and begun to root.

One of the planters is former businessman Jerry Young.

Back in Philadelphia, Young formed a company with a Jewish partner. They set three priorities: God first, family second, the company third.

“Adhering to principles in the Bible and being in sync with God makes things happen that wouldn’t ordinarily happen,” Young says.

He also attended the Philadelphia Leadership Foundation’s prayer breakfasts to demonstrate his priorities to employees, vendors and other leaders.

When he moved to the Lowcountry in 2001, he founded the Charleston Leadership Foundation. Its marquee event is an annual breakfast when a racially and theologically diverse lot of thousands gather to network, pray and hear speakers.

Then, they go forth to lead.

“Change is not readily executed,” Young says, “except from the top.”

Reach Jennifer Hawes at 937-5563, follow her on Twitter at @JenBerryHawes or subscribe to her at facebook.com/jennifer.b.hawes.